The thing that strikes you most about Ruth Ng when you first meet her is how composed and calm she is. This trait is even more impressive when you take into account the fact that she is mother to not one, not two or even three, but seven children – including a two-month-old baby.
Ruth and her husband Bernard are parents to five girls – Veralyn, 16, Angirena, 12, Bibloisca, 11, Alethea, 5, and baby Hannah – and two boys, Elisha, 6, and Abraham, 2. Their five youngest were all born at Thomson Medical under the care of Ruth’s gynaecologist, Dr Adelina Wong.
Thomson Medical is now Ruth’s hospital of choice as she feels it provides mummies with great love and care. “Thomson’s nurses are attentive and experienced, and we felt very comfortable delivering there,” she says.
While Ruth never dreamed of having a big family, Bernard explains that he had always planned to have at least six children. “I am an only child, so I’ve always wanted a large family as I felt it would contribute to a livelier home environment,” he says.
When asked the secret to making their large family work, Ruth and Bernard quickly pointed to what they call their “buddy system”. Each older child is paired off with a younger sibling, with the older assuming some responsibility over the younger. This helps cultivate leadership qualities in the older children, while the younger ones learn the significance of respecting their seniors.
More importantly, it instils in the children the importance of caring for one another, and helps everyone feel like they are part of the family. This buddy system works especially well in helping to resolve the occasional quarrel that arises among the kids. “The older ones are quick to help diffuse conflicts, because they recognise the responsibility they hold,” says Ruth.
And it definitely helps when it comes to vacations! The children fondly recall their favourite family memory so far – their trip to Japan in June 2016. Though it was difficult travelling with six children, the family’s buddy system made the trip manageable, as Ruth and Bernard had extra pairs of hands from their older children to look out for the younger ones.
Making time for all
Being parents of a family this big comes with the challenge of ensuring everyone gets sufficient time with mum and dad. In dealing with the younger kids, Ruth and Bernard have established a bedtime ritual where they read stories and sing songs together. With their older daughters, whom they feel require more one-on-one attention as they navigate the ups and downs of adolescence, each parent occasionally takes one child on what they call “ad-hoc dates”. Far away from the household chatter, the girls are usually more open to sharing issues they personally face.
“These dates are where we try to really tune into what’s happening in our child’s life,” says Ruth.
Finding the right balance
That being said, she concedes that making time for all has gotten more complex lately. Now that baby Hannah has joined the family, Ruth has to juggle her newborn’s needs with the demands of her other children. As with other aspects of their parenting, Ruth and Bernard have overcome this by establishing routines early on. “This had to be centred around Hannah’s feeding patterns and how much time she needed at the breast in order to be full,” says Ruth.
Thankfully, her past breastfeeding experiences taught her to recognise this quickly. “With six other children who have different needs to be met throughout the day, I cannot allow Hannah to suckle indefinitely and seek comfort at my breast for too long. It’s all about finding the right balance to ensure everyone gets the support they need,” Ruth adds. Knowing that she is able to give everyone the care they require, and that this plays a direct role in their growth and wellbeing, is what makes parenting a joy.
As Bernard sums it up, “Seeing them grow up, exercising sensibilities in their decisions, and being motivated to learn new things – these are what I find most rewarding in being a father.”
What the children love most about having a large family is that there is never a dull moment. “There is always activity in the house and it never gets boring,” says Veralyn.
The older kids admit they have grown protective over their younger siblings, while the younger girls reveal that they enjoy receiving clothes from their sisters. “Plus, we get famous in school for having a big family,” they playfully declare.
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