Blessings & Banes is the reverent honouring of the Journey. To celebrate motherhood and womanhood, we sit with three women to hear their stories – the good and the bad. Today, Carissa sits with Tyen (@tyenstagram) and her mother, Joyce.
Tyen is a host, singer, influencer, and daughter to Joyce who has single-handedly brought up three daughters. Our team mate Carissa sits with Tyen and Joyce as they join us for our Blessings & Banes campaign shoot; during which they talk about their relationship, their common interests, and exchange a few sentimental words.
Carissa: How was the photoshoot? Did you guys have fun? This is your first –
Joyce: Our first mother and daughter shoot, yes.
Carissa: That’s so nice! We’ll just get right into the questions then.
Describe your relationship. Joyce, you can go first.
Joyce: [Laughs] Can’t she go first?
Tyen: [Laughs] Isn’t this about moms! I feel like my mom should answer first, right? But uh, okay so – I’d say our relationship is uh… Mommy, I think you should answer first!
Joyce: [Laughs] So as you can see, it’s complicated! Right, our relationship is... we’ve had our ups and downs along the way. And I think that Tyen and I are different temperamentally; I’m more pragmatic and Tyen is more emotional, tempestuous. So at times when our communication modes aren’t really in sync (there’s confusion). I think all mothers and daughters experience this – when a mother has good intentions but the child thinks of it as criticism.
Joyce: And when a mother intends to advise, the daughter understands it as a criticism. My style and character is – I’m quite direct and to the point. Whereas I think maybe for an emotional person (like Tyen), this is something I've had to learn through the years, maybe I could’ve dealt with dealing advise better, you know, so that she doesn’t understand my intentions to be criticism. Yeah.
Tyen: Yeah, so I would say that – oh, are you done with your answer?
Joyce: Yes, [laughs].
Tyen: I would say our relationship has its ups and downs and can be complicated. However, we have over the years found ways to balance each other out. I think we have very different personalities, like I’m definitely an extrovert, my mum’s a bit more of an introvert, I am more emotional, my mom is very logical and pragmatic.
So I think that we have disagreed on many things over the years but I think that we’ve come to learn and understand each others’ perspectives. On my end too, having more maturity to understand where parents are coming from.
Tyen, is there a time where you thought you were being treated unfairly but now that you’ve grown up, you totally understand why Joyce did what she had to do?
Tyen: Well, I think it’s hard when you’re young and you aren't really aware of where your parents are coming from. At the same time, your parents – even though they are older than you and y’know, they’re your parents – you have to realise that they’re also trying to find their way. They’re not – correct all the time [laughs]
Tyen: Your parents are not – [looks to Joyce] I mean, I love you [laughs]
Tyen: Yeah, our parents are not right all the time and that is growth! Nobody is perfect, I think that is essentially it. When you’re younger, you see your parents as a moral compass or what you think you should be like but parents are also humans, they make mistakes too. Even so, they look out for you and they have your best interest at heart.
As you grow older you kind of realise: firstly, why my mother did this or why she parented us in this way. And secondly, you also have a level of – you feel a bit bad that you were so difficult (to raise). Thirdly, you forgive them in many ways because they were not perfect and neither were you.
What is your favourite memory together?
Tyen: Probably one of our holidays? Or a trip to the spa. Something massage related.
Joyce: Oh, like that yoga holiday?
Tyen: Yeah! We went on a yoga retreat together and that was really fun. We took a trip to Bintan –
Joyce: And had the yoga retreat there, yeah.
Carissa: Wow, was that like a mother-daughter like thing?
Tyen: It was! I feel like it was – we both like yoga, so we wanted to do something together.
Joyce: And on Sunday mornings we used to do yoga together as well!
Tyen: Yeah, we’d do Sunday morning yoga since it’s something we enjoy doing together – and we like to go for walks together as well. We probably do all our physical activities and fitness things together because my mom and I enjoy fitness, wellness, eating healthy, that sorta thing.
Joyce, did you think Tyen was difficult to raise?
Joyce: [No hesitation] Oh, yes! [Laughs]
Carissa: Why so? And how did you do it?
Joyce: She was so difficult to raise because – I think it’s quite known (publicly) – she had depression. Clinical depression. (From the beginning) our temperaments did not match, then she had depression, and so I was very worried for her ever since she was in her teens – I think she was fifteen? Sixteen? Yeah, I was worried for her because of her highs and her lows (from depression).
Carissa: I know for some parents, like even my mom, she doesn’t really know about depression. Like, I mean, how did you learn about it, how did you try to connect with Tyen? Were you open to her seeking help?
Joyce: I think the reason why I was aware of it was because I had clinical depression too. And there was a period of time in my mother’s life – when I was very young – when she had also struggled with clinical depression as well.
If you could’ve done one thing different with raising Tyen, what would it be?
Joyce: I would have… [thinking] been more relaxed and more open. When she was so young and so temperamental, my reaction was, “Tyen, control yourself.” Yeah, there was an element of ‘You need to control yourself, you need to settle your emotions.’
In hindsight, I would’ve given her more leeway to express her emotions and personality, and be more understanding, rather than worrying that she was over-emotional and taking the role of a controlling parent.
Tyen, what would you say was the strictest rule your mom gave you?
Tyen: Oh, I would say that my mom was very strict and there were a lot of rules! [laughs] When I was in primary school, she definitely demanded good grades from me, to come home at a certain time, it was all really...
Tyen: Yeah, really standard rules I think.
Joyce: No sleepovers!
Tyen: Oh, yeah [laughs] No sleepovers! That was a really random rule, like I didn’t get that! When I was younger, my mom would never allow me to stay over at my friends’ house. All my friends would have slumber parties, pyjama parties, and there I was, sixteen, seventeen-years-old, and I’d ask if I could stay over but my mom would be like, “No, no, no, I don’t care what time you come home, you’d better come home!”
What are the top three things you learned from your mom?
Tyen: Firstly, uh – the value of money! My mom single handedly raised us so she was very prudent and conservative about money flow. In many ways, this is something I’m very grateful she taught me.
Like, she would bring us for personal development classes and courses. I’d learn that value of creating a passive income for yourself from a really young age so I think that a lot of my entrepreneurial instinct came from that understanding of how to create your own wealth or being your own boss. Because I saw how hard it was for my mom to slog through and she was by herself.
And uh second, I learnt the value of… being… [turns to Joyce] What did I learn from you?
Tyen: Uh, I think my mom is always uh…
Tyen: [Laughs] Wait, hang on, I’m tryna phrase this in my head – like she’s a very logical person. She tries to put her emotions and herself out of the picture? So to leave space for more important things? I think, how would – what would a good word be for it?
Joyce: Detached? Compartmentalised?
Tyen: No, no, no, I don’t wanna be detached [Laughs] Ah, I like how she teaches me to be more… rational! Because I’m very emotional and she’s very emotionally detached, like if she doesn’t like something she’ll just say it honestly, “That’s ugly.” And for us, it’s coming to common ground for me to tell her, “Don’t be so rude.” And for her to tell me, “You need to be more honest!”
Growing up, she was definitely my role model. I’ve always seen her dressed up and going to work – she’s been working for thirty years as a corporate lawyer – and she’s never really just stayed-home. That I think that was one of her regrets – that she didn’t get to spend much time with her kids. [Thinks] I really admire her strength! Strength, yes, more than just working hard, my mother has taught me strength.
Joyce, what made you go back to work after having kids?
Joyce: I had to. [Laughs] I wanted to stop work and (take care of the kids) – that’s actually one of my biggest regrets in life. But my ex-husband didn’t want me to stop working and when he ran away, I was glad I had a job.
Carissa: Ah, I guess it’s nice now you get to spend time together and stuff?
Tyen: It is nice, yeah. I mean my mom has been working at a corporation for a long time, but now she works for a non-profit as a legal counsel, so she does a lot more meaningful, humanitarian work. I mean – not like it’s chill, but it’s a different pace.
You mentioned going through some hardships with regards to your ex-husband. What were your fears, in that happening? What were you scared for for your daughters?
Joyce: I was scared of them being ostracised? I was scared of them being targeted. I was afraid that they would grow up scarred, you know? From the experience, it’s pretty traumatic.
Carissa: Yes, of course. And I guess, how did you talked to them? Like, I don’t know, I would imagine my mom to be like, “Oh my gosh, are you okay?” Like, how did you connect with them over that? Or how did you make sure that they were okay?
Joyce: Hah. [Laughs] I was busy making sure myself and the family were okay! [Laughs]
Tyen: Yeah, [laughs]. My mom didn’t really like… that was when my mom played that conventional ‘father’ role? I think that the instinct in her to be a very rational, logical person just went, “Okay, now I have to at least work hard at my job so that we can be stable and secure because I have to take care of these girls by myself.”
And I completely understand why she got so frustrated with me when I was emotional. Sometimes I feel like I drove her up the wall a bit too much and her emotional reaction thereafter was very strong, so I think I understand why she got so frustrated with me [laughs]. In retrospect, I was a difficult child to bring up [laughs].
I understand why she was critical too. As a kid, you’d go to the person that cares for you most for emotional support, but I remembered my mom would always scold me when I cried – like, she’d give me a strange look and kind of scold me, “Why are you crying? Why would you cry about something like this?” Like, “Why are you feeling?”
In retrospect, it was a good and bad thing. I wished she was a bit more emotionally supportive and emotionally available to care for me in the way I needed her to care as a mother. But I also understand why she tried to instil that hardiness in me.
For the both of you, what is one thing you always wanted to tell each other but were too shy to say?
Tyen: Hm [turns to Joyce], you go first!
Joyce: I suppose now is the time to apologise to Tyen [laughs tearily]. Um, looking back and not being emotionally available, I’ve realised that I wasn’t emotionally available because I was too busy untangling my own emotions. Right, and [deep breath] to have been soft and warm would mean I would have to acknowledge my own emotions of inadequacy.
So… now is the time to be sorry. I was afraid that... being too emotional would mean being inadequate for the family. So I simply survived. And I didn’t realise your needs. I’m sorry.
Tyen: It’s okay, mummy [holds onto Joyce’s hands].
Carissa: And what about you, Tyen?
Tyen: I think above all, I want to thank her. I feel that the person that I am, the strongest that I am today is because of her. I could never do what she did, in terms of raising my sisters and I single-handedly, and working a corporate job whilst trying to be there for us. I think that her strength is something I didn’t realise impacted me so much until I was much older; I look back and I realise that I get a lot of my grit from my mother. [Pause] That’s a pretty good soundbite, right?
Tyen: I get a lot of grit and grace from my mother!
What does motherhood mean to you? What does being a mother mean?
Joyce: It’s my identity. I am first and foremost a mother.
Carissa: I think that’s it! Thank you guys for sitting down and having this interview with me!
Tyen: Yeah, no problem! Thank you for having us.
Many thanks to Tyen and Joyce for their time and story!