Ms Tin Pei Ling, 35, MP for MacPherson SMC, calls her mother her best friend.
Madam Yong Yuit Ngoh, a 67-year-old housewife, was Ms Tin’s main caregiver, confidante and constant companion when she was growing up.
Madam Yong is married to Mr Tin Chew Hong, 72, a retiree who used to run a coffee shop. Ms Tin is their only child.
Ms Tin, a mother of two, says she has learnt, among many other things, “the importance of education and the need to be socially mobile” from the family stories her mother told her.
“It’s useful to understand the environment in which my mum grew up, which helped me appreciate what I have, and why she was doing what she did, for my education,” says Ms Tin.
Madam Yong’s father died when she was a baby and her mother, a construction worker, raised Madam Yong and her three older brothers alone.
Resources were scarce: Madam Yong’s mother used to pick up vegetables dropped by others at the market.
Although Madam Yong does not speak English, she ensured that Ms Tin kept on top of her school work and made her write English notes repeatedly in a jotter book as a child.
Even in pre-school, she was concerned when she realised that Ms Tin did not understand the teacher’s instruction to queue up.
Ms Tin is similarly mindful of the value of education and languages for her children, though she says she is more “perfectionistic” than her mother.
“The differences are also generational. My mum was more worried about my English, while I’m more concerned about my son’s Chinese.”
Ms Tin is the chief executive of Business China, a non-profit organisation spearheaded by the Singapore Government and the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
She is married to Mr Ng How Yue, 49, permanent secretary in the Law Ministry and second permanent secretary at the Health Ministry. Their sons are three years old and seven months old.
She has taught her elder son to recite poems from the Tang dynasty since he was two years old. The poems have themes such as filial piety and resilience, values that she hopes to impart to her offspring.
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.
(Photo: The Straits Times)