Sim Ann, 44, used to dread a childhood chore that was part of her “domestic goddess” mother’s routine.
Her mother, retired television producer Choo Lian Liang, now 71, periodically felt the urge to tidy the home from top to bottom.
Married to retired university lecturer Sim Hock Kee, 79, Madam Choo would scold Sim Ann and her younger brother and sister if they did not pull their weight.
Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, says: “I used to think, ‘So what if the house is a bit messy? We can live with it, why can’t mum?’ I told myself that I would never do that to my kids and go into cleaning frenzies.”
But the MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC changed her tune when she grew up.
“I found it’s pretty hard to stomach a messy house. Sometimes, I see my children pulling long faces when I mobilise my own clean-up operations,” says Sim Ann, who is married to hospital administrator Mok Ying Jang, 51.
The couple have two sons, aged 15 and seven, and a 12-year-old daughter (seen in the Facebook post below).
Close family ties
Ms Sim says her mum values family relationships because of her own difficult childhood.
Between the ages of three and 13, Madam Choo, her elder brother and their parents were banished from Singapore to China, where the children were separated from their parents for some time.
Madam Choo’s father was viewed by the colonial authorities as a leftwing activist. He died in his late 40s after a brief stint in a labour camp near the Siberian border.
Now, Ms Sim, her siblings and their families spend several hours every weekend with their parents.
“My mum is the focal point of the family and she shaped our views (on spending time together),” she says.
Life of a working mum
Mother and daughter also have a shared understanding of the pressures faced by working mums.
Ms Sim says: “When I was a young adult, I met some of my mum’s former colleagues, who told me how my siblings and I were always on my mother’s mind. She would berate herself if she missed the start of the school holidays and hadn’t taken leave to spend time with us.
“I hadn’t known that. Some things about your parents, you find out only later, through other people.”