Housewife Hoy Tsui Ling, 43, doesn’t have to put up with questions like “When are you going to have another child?” during family gatherings. That’s because she and her husband, Edwin, also 43, are proud parents to six kids:
- John, 15
- Magdalene, 12
- Hannah, 10
- Elizabeth, eight
- Joshua, six
- Anna Faith, two.
She quips: “I planned for two. My husband planned for four. But in the end, we are blessed with six.”
“They have brought me so much joy. I am so thankful.”
Tsui Ling and Edwin have bucked the trend of shrinking families. The average household size in Singapore has fallen from 5.3 members in 1970 to 3.4 in 2014. Families with two children continue to be the norm among women, with 35.5 per cent of those aged 30-39 years and 43.2 per cent of those aged 40-49 years having just two kids.
When the family go out for a meal, people would sometimes point and stare, so much so that she has got used to the attention.
“A lot of people are amazed. You can tell people get a bit shocked when all of us enter a lift at one shot,” she says.
Managing a household with six children is no easy task. Using a roster, the children help their mother out with chores such as washing clothes and cooking.
Tsui Ling says: “Since we have no helper, we do everything ourselves. We want to train our kids to do things themselves, instead of relying on others.”
Their eldest, John, plays a significant role. He sets his alarm to wake up first, then he gets his siblings to arise. They live in a five-room HDB flat in Pasir Ris. It is not the biggest of spaces, but Tsui Ling says it suits them fine.
Even then, there is a boys’ bedroom, a girls’ bedroom and a study room. To save space, the children sleep on bunk beds.
HOME IS SCHOOL
Tsui Ling homeschools all her children. This allows her to keep track of them, instead of being dependent on a school’s timetable. “Since they were young, my husband and I wanted to be the ones to inculcate the values we hold for ourselves in them,” she says.
Their learning environment is a collaborative one, where the older siblings help the younger ones with their homework. On a typical day, the children finish their lessons by 3pm. Between lessons, they take turns practising on the piano.
Edwin, who works as a civil servant, takes the reins on weekends — that means field trips to museums and parks.
Despite the large number of children, Tsui Ling does not find it overwhelming. “We work together and when it becomes part of the routine, it doesn’t feel like there is a lot to do,” she says.
Of course, it means there will be some bickering among the siblings, but Tsui Ling sees this as a good thing. She says: “The first thing they see is one another, all the way till they go to bed. This can cause them to squabble, but it also helps them understand each other better.”
In fact, she starts panicking when the usually raucous house gets too quiet. She laughs: “They have become such a big part of my life, I get so uneasy if I don’t hear them.”
Next page: Meet the families with 7 and 8 kids!