Spoiler alert: Valerie Lim debunks all myths about balancing motherhood and a successful career - and she throws in some nifty tips on parenting, too!
Juggling career and motherhood can feel like you’re being pulled in all directions sometimes. But Valerie Lim swears by a routine that constantly realigns her priorities. As the former Miss Universe Singapore title winner, and now the national director of the same organisation, Valerie also advocates for women-centric causes – all while being mummy to two-year-old Isabelle. Read on to find out more about how this former pageant winner does it all, and thrives as a working mama…
Passion for fashion and all things pageant
Disproving the popular belief that a pageant winner probably has a knack for the industry from birth, Valerie grew up a “tomboy”. It was through flirting with the idea of modelling and dancing that led her to explore the beauty pageant realm. A very large part of her exploration and motivation involved her mum, who was a finalist for the 1981 Miss Universe Singapore pageant.
“Winning the Miss Universe Singapore competition in 2011 was, in a way, fulfilling my mum’s dream,” says Valerie. The pageant also turned out to be a confidence booster for Valerie to overcome her strained self-esteem during her teens especially when it came to her height.
Having spent three years as a behaviour therapist before she took off as a model, Valerie is also zealous about creating opportunities for people. She took that very cause to the 2011 Miss Universe platform to scale up her efforts.
Valerie on her birthing journey
When Valerie became a mother, she had to double her efforts in life. Mothers always share about their excruciating adversities when it comes to giving birth because, as we all know, pregnancy isn’t an easy feat. ‘Incredible’ was how Valerie described her first moments as a mother and recalled immersing in the connection that she had with her daughter, Isabelle.
“Having carried my daughter through the pregnancy, there was already a bond and constant reminder of carrying another life. But having my daughter out and on my chest was just incredible and surreal at the same time.”
With an array of technology advancements and methods available for birthing today, there are many pain-relieving ways for mamas to give birth. Valerie, however, wears her birth journey like a badge of honour as she wanted to go through the natural process and ventured into the hypnobirthing procedure — using hypnosis and relaxation techniques to help with the natural birthing process.
“We read up on hypnobirthing and wanted to go the all-natural route with birthing. We attended classes together which helped us bond as to-be parents, and we are proud to say we birthed Isabelle naturally with no drugs!” says Valerie who is grateful for her husband’s support throughout her overwhelming journey.
Mummy duties and career commitments
Let’s be real, carrying out mummy duties is already taxing, but having to juggle them alongside a career is a whole new wrestle. Valerie mentioned one of her challenges was having to be there for her daughter physically and mentally after a long day’s work.
With new responsibilities come new adjustments. This new mother is well aware of that and works out a plan beforehand to avoid snowballing the demands of her roles. As her daughter is still in her early years and breastfeeds, Valerie’s presence is still a crucial part of her daughter’s day. “I have been able to manage my time and energy relatively well by keeping the majority of my important work meetings and work during the daytime when my daughter is in school.”
Valerie believes a large part of her ability to manage her roles is to have a routine. She carves out mere minutes in her day to tick off certain daily routines which she reckons is very important. “These daily sessions may only take 10 to 15 minutes, but are so important to do, so I can constantly realign my priorities and get through my lists.”
Swearing by the idea of balance, Valerie shares that it’s key to managing the various aspects of a working mother’s life. She feels that the other areas of her life shouldn’t be compromised by the trials and tribulations of being a working mum.
“You must set proper expectations for the various aspects of your life, as they will be different, especially your relationships with friends and partner,” she expressed. Part of her coping kit consists of chocolate, yoga or working out, for her to get through her day.
Parenting the ‘Valerie way’
Describing her parenting style as “child-led and positive”, Valerie works with Isabelle based on her cues. “I take cues from Izzy and try to give my daughter as much freedom as possible, to explore and expand her mind.”
She specifically uses the redirection method — diverting Isabelle’s behaviour towards a positive lane but in a supportive way instead of a direct “No!” to her wrong actions. Valerie believes that this ensures, as parents, they step in to show Isabelle the right way of things, but in a manner that allows for growth.
Along with this method, Valerie tries to let Isabelle find her own way at things, even if it means letting her fall down, within reason, to then picking herself back up again. “This grit is a very important concept and I feel it helps Isabelle cope with challenging times.”
The beauty queen hopes to inculcate in her daughter to always be herself. “To draw her own self-worth and self-confidence from within so she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.” She further elaborates that it’s crucial to remember who you are and that even as a working mother, it is important to retain your own identity.
Valerie’s takeaway advice to young women, entrepreneurs and mothers is this: Passion overrules everything. “While following the hot trends, the big money, or your peers may seem like the right thing to do, it may not ultimately serve you well as it may not align with your own interests deep down.”
The ultimate goal she believes in is to be content with your own decisions in life that align with your passion and priorities. As for Isabelle, Valerie strives to give her the childhood that she deserves. “I fully intend to provide the best for my daughter and to also continue to progress my career,” hopes Valerie. She feels Isabelle would be able to eventually have equal opportunities as a result.
Although the balance has been undoubtedly tough for Valerie, she has realised through her journey that it’s possible and sustainable to maintain it. “I look forward to growing both passions in my life and hope to share that duality of being a working-mum,” she concludes.
Thanks, Valerie Lim – and good luck on your next steps!