I don’t believe in sparing the rod: Lina Ng
SINGAPORE — Lina Ng put her showbiz career on hold 13 years ago when she became a mum, but she is now back in her biggest role in more than a decade as the perfectionist mum, Chae Lian, in Mediacorp Channel 5’s Lion Mums 2.
Known for her vivacious personality as a TV host and actress, Ng, 43, who is a mum-of-three also plays a mother of three in Lion Mums 2.
Ng said that she wanted to challenge herself with her “first English-speaking drama role”, but the real challenge in her life, she added, is having to raise three boys; especially since they have very different personalities.
Her oldest, Jeriel, 13, is a sensitive and sensible boy. “He’s big-sized because he plays water polo — but he’s tender at heart. He’s my bodyguard and I love giving him hugs!” she said.
Her middle child, Joel, 11, is the street smart and outspoken one. “If you’re conservative, you may even think he’s disrespectful or rude — but he’s not. He’s just confident enough to share what he disagrees with,” she said.
Her youngest is Samuel, 6, is a “happy-go-lucky fella”, who talks the most among the three brothers. “He talks so much that we sometimes have to ask him to stop! He’s also Joel’s best friend and they play very well together,” said Ng.
Despite being one of the most recognisable faces on TV, Ng, who also runs a Chinese enrichment programme — although she said she has scaled that down — considers herself a full-time mum. “Most of my time is with the children and with household chores! I don’t have a helper at home, so I handle everything on my own,” she said. “What do I do when I have a day off? I have to clean the whole house!”
A typical day, she said, consists of getting the boys ready for school. “When my husband sends Joel and Jeriel to school, I will walk Samuel to the childcare centre,” she said.
“I will then do my marketing, then have a little me-time and breakfast. After that, I come home and start on some chores, like drying the clothes, vacuuming the floor, and I will start to prepare the food that we’ll be having for dinner.
“Then of course, when the kids get back home, I will have to help the older boys get their homework done, making sure they do it before they can relax.”
Q: How do you feel you have changed as a mum over the years?
A: I have a lot more patience now. I can get easily frustrated or kan cheong easily, like especially if I need my kids to get things done quickly, and if things don’t get done, I get frustrated. But after I had my second kid and then my third, I realised that I started to take things a lot easier. Like, if they fall, I no longer rush to them, I will say, “are you okay, if you are, then stand up on your own”. I’m so much cooler now!
Q: Did you take up the role because you identify with being a “Lion Mum?
A: I’ve always been known as a Chinese drama artiste. I also tried my hand recently at being a radio DJ at Love97.2FM. I’ve even done stage performances once or twice. The only thing I’ve never done is an English drama. So I wanted to challenge myself.
I also (wanted to) be a good role model to my children. I shared with them that I wasn’t sure if I would be successful doing English dramas, as people may not like the way I speak, but I would try my best. I want to show them that if mummy can do it, you can pick up anything you want as well.
Q: Are you like your character, Chae Lian, in real life?
A: The part about being really strict and my child must be an “elite” — there’s just a little bit of truth in it ... I mean, who doesn’t want your child to be good? But I don’t really stress my children. I tell them to just do their very best — if they still don’t do well, or even flunk, I’m fine with it. But if you don’t try your best, then yes, I will scream like any other mum!
Q: So you’re pretty strict?
A: Chae Lian uses the cane. I, too, believe in not sparing the rod. There has to be a kind of punishment that you have to instil — especially in boys — so that they’ll know the seriousness of certain mistakes that they make. I don’t use the cane unnecessarily. I would give them three warnings, and if they still break those rules, I will have to use the cane. There are certain values, like respect and not telling lies — these are things we hold very close to in our family.
Q: As a mum, do you have a message for other mums through your portrayal of Chae Lian?
A: I hope that when mums watch the show, they will identify with at least one of the characters. Like when I portray Chae Lian in a certain scene, (people) sometimes ask me, “will a mum really do that?” And I will say, “actually, yes”.
There’s no exact reason why a mum acts a certain way — sometimes, it just happens, and you may even regret certain things that you do. I just want mums to know that they are not weird, and they are not alone. If we can portray this on screen, it’s because we have gathered the realness from real mums in Singapore.
Q: So are you looking forward to your sons’ teen years?
A: I’m honestly not very sure what I’m facing! Jeriel is now going through puberty, and there are days he seems emotional, or he suddenly just laughs for no reason. I’m like, what’s wrong with you? Then, I realise it is just the hormones. They still share a lot with me, and that is something I am very happy about. They are very open with me, whether it’s about conversations with their friends, or they will gladly show me what is on their phones if I ask them to. This is something I’m very happy to have built with my children and I really hope I can always keep this openness.
Q: Is there anything you struggle with?
A: I’m trying to be more of a friend to them. I know that there will come a point in time, they will need me as a friend, and not just as a mother who keeps nagging. And it’s my own personal challenge to know when I have to stop being so much of a mum, and more of a friend. Of course, there are days where my sons will tell me, mum, stop nagging!
Q: What about the birds and the bees?
A: We have already started talking about sex education because they learn about it in Primary 5 in school. Actually, I asked their dad to talk to them first ... I’m not embarrassed to talk to them, but I felt maybe it’s not so appropriate. So, I asked their dad if he would like to do that. We also said, “if you are ever interested to know how sex happens, let us know. Don’t do it behind our backs and watch stuff on the Internet — we can switch it on and watch together. Then, I can tell you what is going on, rather than you watching on your own sneakily, and feeling that you may be doing something wrong.”
Q: What is one thing you do together as a family that’s precious to you?
A: Have dinner together. It was Jeriel who suggested having regular dinner time together, so that we can talk and discuss things as a family — everything, even political issues. And we thought, great! So, now, we always make it a point to sit and talk and eat together every day.
A version of this story first appeared in SmartParents.