Story 2: The Instant Stepmum.
A magazine editor by day and a florist on the weekends, Ng Yilian, is a busy woman. But what most people would know from her social media is that she’s actively involved in her stepchildren’s learning, especially conversing with her stepson in Mandarin.
Eight years ago, Yilian, 38, met her husband, Adam, 44, an American teacher, while he was separated from his children’s biological mother. His children Theo and Clover were then just 4 and 1, respectively.
He had recently moved to Singapore when his relationship with the children’s mother unravelled. Shortly after separating, he met Yilian in 2013. They got married in 2018 after five years of dating.
Yilian has been a co-parent ever since she started dating Adam. Because of Adam’s caregiver arrangement with the children, Yilian has played a big part in the children’s life since they were young. She changed diapers, took them for classes, and takes part in their life milestones.
Although they are now married, Yilian has no immediate plans to adopt the children legally. She feels confident of her presence in the children’s lives and will start the legal process to do so when the time is right.
Here is her story:
My first memory of meeting my stepdaughter, Clover, was when she was 1 and needed a diaper change. She was beside herself crying. Adam was unavailable and so, I went to her. Immediately, she stopped crying and smiled at me. While changing her diaper was not how I imagined I would meet my partner’s child, it was an exceptional encounter. It is also the same way I see Clover – a smiling and happy child.
She is now 9 and has her moody moments but underneath all that, she is still that sweet, smiling baby I changed diapers for!
My stepson, on the other hand, mistook me for his pre-school teacher and asked me what I was doing in their home!
These were wonderful memories from a traumatic time in their lives. Being in their growing years since my husband’s divorce from his ex-wife meant that I was sort of a stepmum from the get-go.
In the beginning when I was less secure in my relationship, it used to bother me a bit when I got stares – especially when I have to commute with them to tuition classes or when we are in the lifts. Strangers would stare and occasionally mistake me for the family helper. Because I was a constant presence in their lives, they knew who I was and would say that I was their Dad’s girlfriend, “Auntie Yilian”. That was all I needed to feel confident about my relationship, not just with Adam but also with them.
My biggest challenge was my relationship with Theo. As he was old enough to understand the situation between his biological mother and father while I was in the picture, there were moments our relationship struggled. He even once used the “But you’re not my mother!” on me.
It took him at least 2 years to warm up to me. But things have changed now. I enjoy the fact that my husband has enrolled them in a local school and it’s my way to bond with them because I understand the demands of the school system. They learn Chinese in school and speak Mandarin to me at home. Theo only speaks colloquially to me and even uses Mandarin to greet me when he gets home from school! He’s 12 and is a total joy to be around.
Recently he told his Dad that when it is his time to collect his PSLE exam results later in the year, “I would like Auntie Yilian to come with me and collect my results. She understands the school system better.”
It really made my day!
Maybe I’ve been a constant in his life, or it could be the past year’s work-from-home arrangements due to Covid19 restrictions. Whatever it is, I realise consistency and a sense of reliability is important for growing children.
Children of divorced parents have a lot to deal with – psychologically when they have to code-switch, and physically when they are between homes of parents. I want them to grow and do things on their own, develop a value system that makes them better people.
Till today, they call me “Auntie Yilian” as they always have. I’m not fussed if they decide to still go with that or switch and call me Mum. It’s their choice and I want them to be comfortable with it. Our relationship is evolving, and the dynamics will change. I’m honestly looking forward to seeing them grow up and what our relationship will be like.