We speak to Madeline Beale, mum-of-three and published author, about being part of a multi-cultural family in Singapore
It’s cool parent time again, and this week we’ve been catching up with lovely mother-of-three and published author Madeline Beale. Hailing originally from Australia, Maddie met her Singaporean husband Rajiv at school and is now a busy but proud mum to their two beautiful girls and adorable little boy: while still squeezing in time to pen and publish picture book stories about living in a multi-cultural, multi-religious family. All this without a helper! Find out how love blossomed beyond the classroom, why her dishwasher is one of her best friends, and what inspired Madeline to write a series of books that embrace the message that being different doesn’t have to be so different after all…
How long have you been in Singapore for, and where were you before?
This is my 16th year living in sunny Singapore! I am originally from Melbourne, Australia and moved here when I was 16-years-old. My mother came here for work and so my brother, sister and I tagged along. I still miss the seasonal weather back in Australia, but we try to go back once every year to catch up with family.
I am now a permanent resident here, and I’m married to a Singaporean. I had no idea that moving to another country would change my life quite so dramatically!
So, you’re from Australia, and your husband is from Singapore. How did you guys meet?
We met in school! I finished my upper secondary years here and one day I was talking to the music teacher and there was Rajiv sitting in the classroom staring at me. He was the school ‘bad boy’ or, as her preferred to be known, the creative. He was charismatic, charming and intelligent for sure (then and now). What mattered most was that he made me laugh which helped my homesickness for Australia disappear. We fell in love after a year of dating and have been together ever since – it was worth moving countries to find my soulmate!
Tell us about your children and your family life…
We have three kids: Sarah (11 years), Alaina (8 years) and Max (1 year). The kids are hilarious – like their dad – and very loving. There are fights, tantrums and heated board game battles, but there are also plenty of cuddles, helpful hands and snuggly movie nights. We try our best to balance the stress of school and their playfulness so they can really enjoy childhood. Weekends are all about fun and hanging out as a family.
We started our family soon after getting married. We were both working full time back then, but Rajiv’s family were very supportive and have continuously lent their extra pairs of hands over the years to help us manage home-life and work-life. They’ve also come in very handy for babysitting duties when we needed it most. We decided not to have a full-time helper, and to be honest the decision back then was made because a) we couldn’t afford one, b) we lived (and still live) in a HDB that did not have much room for a helper, and c) we wanted to be as hands-on as possible when it came to our growing family. It wasn’t (and isn’t) easy: we needed to send the little ones to childcare while we were working, but the pros for us outweighed the cons of having to juggle everything. We love having our own privacy, and we definitely think that it has helped our children learn to be responsible. Chores are something the kids have to be involved in, and if they don’t help out then they don’t get privileges such as TV time. One day someone will crack under the pressure I am sure… haha.
What does a typical day in the life of Maddie look like?
My day begins at 6am on a weekday morning, helping the girls get ready for school. I wave them goodbye at 6.40am, start ironing work shirts for my husband and then get breakfast ready. I then prep Max’s bits ‘n’ bobs for his day and feed him before heading off to his playgroup. Once the small dude is safely deposited at preschool, it’s off to the supermarket before coming home to clean the house and sort through what seems like mountains of laundry.
The kids are all back around lunchtime, so from then on it becomes a blur of feeding, homework, housework and cooking. The girls go to bed at 7.30pm, and then Max finally dozes off around 9pm. Once Raj is home from work, we have dinner in relative peace along with a glass of wine in celebration of a successful day done and dusted.
I also sit down twice a week when I get a moment to think and write. This is definitely my ‘me time‘ and keeps me sane! On top of that, I meet up with friends for coffee when I can, and ferry the kids between playdates throughout the week. It’s all pretty hectic, but good fun too.
You’re a published author! Where did you get your inspiration from for your stories?
Yes, I have published four books, inspired by real events from my children’s lives. The Sarah Series is based on my eldest daughter, Sarah. We are a multicultural and multi-religious family and I could not find children’s books that embraced our family set-up, and I wanted something that my multi-ethnic kids could relate to. My stories were written with not only Sarah in mind, but also for children like her and for parents to teach their own little ones about living in a harmonious, multi-cultural society. The stories are very personal to me, so approaching a publisher was pretty nerve-wracking! But thanks to a new friend I made, I got an intro with Marshall Cavendish who read the books and sent me a contract the same day. I was amazed! Douglas Goh got on board with the illustrations and then voila: the books were ready to print and publish. The whole process took around six months.
Sarah’s Yummiest Food, Sarah’s Great Adventures, Sarah’s BFF and Sarah’s Happy Holidays are my gift to my kids. These stories really represent how being part of a multicultural family is rather special, and I wanted my children and other children in similar family dynamics to know that being different isn’t so different at all.
What does being a mum mean to you?
It means everything to me. When I was young, I dreamt of being a stay at home mum. I wanted to have strong bonds with my kids, look after my babies and take care of my husband. It may seem an old-fashioned notion to some, but I knew it’s what I wanted to do. And I love it! I had to work back in the early years of becoming a mum and wife, and I feel incredibly blessed and thankful that I am now able to stay home with the people who mean the world to me, and that I also get to write stories along the way. I am very lucky.
And finally, what parenting hacks do you have for other mothers juggling work and family life?
To be very honest, I have no hacks! I am not sure there is an easy way to juggle work and family life. I do try and be as organised as I can be, which definitely helps. I prep meals on a weekend for the first half of the week, clean as we go along, and make sure the kids get their clothes and things ready for school. Stuff like that lightens the load. And a dishwasher also makes a big difference: especially if you don’t have a helper! Having a supportive partner certainly makes everything a little smoother and happier: thanks, Rajiv!
Top image: Madeline Beale
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