David Yee and Jacqueline Chow – the model couple making their own parenting rules as they grow up with their girls. By Sunitha Thayaparan.
A day in the life of the Yees proves that a lot of love and a little laughter goes a long way
“Today’s meltdown, will be tomorrow’s funny anecdote,” laughs David Yee, 43, the day BAZAAR breezes in for a bright summery shoot in the couple’s tastefully decorated suburban home – shades of white, cream, and grey. It’s possibly the best introduction to the “Zen and the Art of Parental Sanity” approach as practised in the Yee household. David and Jackie Yee may look like they just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine with their chiselled good looks and statuesque, naturally angular frames, but they literally fall down with laughter when a quick look around their picture perfect home prompts one to remark “You guys really have it together.”
“Oh my God,” laughs Jackie, mum to Isabel, six, Alexis, five, and Chelsea, three. “Far from it! We often look at those parents who seem textbook perfect. They’re jetsetting to Parrot Cay, trying new restaurants every night, scoring phenomenal career highs. Don’t get us started on their kids. The kids are doing things that make you wonder what manual those adults got at childbirth that we didn’t. And that’s just trying to keep up with the new developmental “norms”. We hear of two-year-olds playing the violin, three-year-olds who read and write, fouryear-olds who are trilingual, five-year-olds who never miss an essay deadline. We are always telling ourselves not to compare our kids. But it is hard when you are constantly bombarded with stories of toddlers who are all but forming nuclear physics theories.”
The couple met in the early 2000s when Jackie was a rising PR maverick and David hosting TV shows, and are clearly anchored in a relationship based on humour and a great attitude. “Well, we met through mutual friends in Singapore at an Emporio Armani event that Jackie organised,” begins David. “We were both in rocky relationships at the
time and talked on the phone for hours, consulting each other on our respective failing relationships. We eventually realised that everything was completely our ex-partners’ fault and we had absolutely no hand in what went wrong. So we then decided that we must be perfect for each other. And we were right,” the now college director laughs in reflection as he brings out white wine with creamy undertones and a rainbow of antipasto for a snack. The girls practically fall on their dad as he distributes hummus on crackers before running off to watch the adventures of Princess Barbie.
“Funnily enough,” says David, “Wikihow actually has a five-step list to managing work, life, and kids but the truth, as all parents of young kids will tell you, is that all you can do is take it one day at a time. If one of us is having a tough day, the other will try to help out a bit more. We just have to enjoy (or suffer) each day as it comes. Again, the Tao of Toddlerhood is that today’s meltdown will be tomorrow’s funny anecdote.” At that moment, Isabel, Izzy, for short, comes running up with tales of woe about the pink dress she’s meant to wear for the shoot. “It’s scratchy, Daddy,” she says plaintively, and David turns to settle her into compliance. Jackie says, watching the scenario, “David’s a great dad, really hands-on. After Izzy was born I really thought I could handle going back to work on a more freelance basis but the guilt just wore me out. PR is a full-time operation, even part-time, so I realised something had to give and I certainly did not want it to be my family. I do the school runs and Chelsea is with me through the day, leaving me time to work on my occasional hobby, an online business selling baby sleeping bags. It’s like a little side project that keeps me engaged but really, my girls are my priority and it’s great I can be with them fulltime.” Jackie, 41, who does not look a day over 29, admits her style has definitely evolved since her PR days. “Well, I’m loving Gwyneth Paltrow’s easy, classic style and now I favour fluid silhouettes like maxi dresses that can take me from the school run to a spot of shopping or coffee with friends.”
It’s clear as day, as Chelsea, Lexie, and Izzy ham it up for the camera, and buzz about trying to get everyone’s attention, the air punctuated with shrieks of laughter and
“You tell the truth, appreciate your parents, kiss the ones you love goodnight. They pick up on the good stuff ...
If you’re lucky.” – David Yee
squeals of excitement, that this is a happy household. “You have to have a sense of humour about things,” muses David, “but we believe in parenting by osmosis. We try to become “better” people every day in the hopes that they will pick up on our attitudes and behaviour instead of just preaching to them. It is challenging trying to be what we want our children to become. So we speak politely, eat our fruit and vegetables, curse out of earshot, scarf down the Doritos only when the kids are asleep, try not to fight over the remote control.” Jackie concurs, saying, “We have become more conscious about our actions in everyday situations – how we treat each other, how we treat strangers, how we react to good and bad situations, and how we practice our beliefs. It’s an exercise in respect, patience, humility, and humour.”
“It’s incredible watching them grow up, develop their own personalities, so distinct from each other,” says David. “Lexie is incredibly shy, Izzy is pretty determined, and Chelsea is a fighter.” Jackie chimes in, saying, “What’s important is to remember they are individuals with individual needs. I remember walking into Isabel’s preschool one Mother’s Day and a buzz of chatter, oohs and aaaahs could be heard as the teachers handed each mum a card plucked from a row of drawings the children had made for Mother’s Day. There were hearts, flowers, houses with families of stick figures in every Crayola shade. Two teachers came up to me and started apologising profusely, saying, “We really wanted to help Isabel. We kept asking her what she wanted to draw but she refused our help.” They kept the piece of paper face down. After a few nervous glances, they turned over the piece of paper and handed it to me. It was a page of black scrawls. No colours, just black. There were no identifiable shapes. Not even a stick mother. When Isabel and I got into the car, I asked her what she had drawn for me. In a flash, she sat up and leaned over to the driver’s seat and pointed to some black squiggles and said “Q. V. T. P. Love!” She couldn’t spell or draw to save her life but my four-year-old got her Mother’s Day message across. It really is the thought that counts.”
“In the end, it’s not that hard,” smiles David. “You tell the truth, appreciate your parents, kiss the ones you love goodbye and goodnight. They pick up on the good stuff.” He pauses. “If you’re lucky!” And breaks out into that trademark laugh of his.
Table talk with the Yee family. From left: Isabel, Jacqueline, Chelsea, Alexis, and David
The girls at play
Jacqueline and David always make time for one another despite their busy schedules