Radio deejay Shan Wee and his entrepreneur wife, Artika Sulaiman, may have different personalities, but the 32-yearolds share a common style of parenting.
YOU’VE BEEN MARRIED FOR THREE YEARS. HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPED FROM THE TIME YOU WERE DATING?
Artika: We’ve been through a lot, especially after having our son, Ciaran, about a year and a half ago. When you have a baby, you don’t think about your relationship so much. You just try to survive from one day to the next. There were a lot more chores and bickering about whose turn it was to care for the baby.
Shan: We were also trying to find a new home at that time so we were driving from place to place every day, often with a screaming baby in the car. It was stressful.
DID YOU EXPECT PARENTHOOD TO BE THAT HARD?
Artika: I never thought much about motherhood when I found out I was pregnant. I was just freaking out about how to give birth. Nobody told me how my life would never be mine, ever again.
Shan: During pregnancy, all that you read is about how to stay healthy and what the birth will be like. You don’t read as much as you should on the first year of parenting, which of course is longer and more important.
DO YOU GET PARENTING TIPS FROM OTHERS?
Artika: In the beginning, I was more sensitive and would judge myself as a mother each time someone said something about my parenting skills. Take hygiene, for example. Some parents wash their children’s hands 70 times a day and don’t allow them to touch the floor. If they do, the parents wipe their hands clean straightaway.
But Shan and I are quite lax about that – if Ciaran wants to crawl around on the floor, we let him. And he has turned out to be a really funloving kid. I don’t think we can adopt anybody else’s parenting style.
Shan: Ciaran’s barely two years old but he’s already good at running and climbing, partly because we don’t pick him up at once when he falls. He’s very well-developed physically.
Artika: A lot of people baby-proof their apartments. When a child crawls under the table, they place their hands on the child’s head so that he won’t bump it against the table. But we never did that with Ciaran, so he has built some spatial awareness.
“Ciaran’s barely two years old but he’s already good at running and climbing, partly because we don’t pick him up at once
when he falls.”
He can go in and out of any space without bumping his head because he learnt early on not to do that.
IS CIARAN SHOWING ANY OF YOUR TRAITS? MAYBE HE’LL GROW AS TALL AS SHAN?
Artika: No! My mum always said that I had to marry someone who’s taller, with a better nose, to improve the next generation. Did I not do that? But Ciaran’s in the 25th percentile growth-wise, according to our doctor.
Shan: Yeah, he’s small for his age but I think he’ll end up fine. I’m not worried about it. His looks and personality are mostly from Tika’s side, so I expect him to be quite like her when he grows up – resourceful and outgoing.
Artika: That’s because Shan’s genes are super-lazy and super-relaxed.
Shan: That’s true. My genes are going, “Ah, we’ll be there in a minute” and hers are going, “Now, now, now!”.
DO YOU GUYS RIB EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME?
Artika: All the time. We don’t say anything nice to each other.
Shan: I suppose we’ve always shared a sense of humour.
Artika: I wouldn’t be with someone who’s super-serious.
WERE YOU ATTRACTED TO HER WITTY HUMOUR, SHAN?
Shan: Yeah, you don’t get that a lot from girls.
Artika: You mean, you weren’t attracted to my looks? (Feigns anger)
Shan: Of course, your looks were the first thing I noticed. (Clears throat)
ARTIKA SEEMS TO BE THE CHATTIER ONE, SHAN.
Artika: He doesn’t talk if no one pays him to.
Shan: That’s the irony of my life. I’m a very quiet person, yet my job is all about talking. Tika has always been the outgoing one – it’s much more natural for her to chat with people than it is for me.
SO IN YOUR CASE, OPPOSITES DO ATTRACT?
Shan: I wouldn’t say we’re opposites, but even if we are, I’m fine with it because I don’t expect I can ever meet a girl who would be better.
Artika: I’m the best? Shan: I think so. And you’ve got a trophy to show for it as well. You see, she loves winning trophies so I’ve given her some as a joke. She has one for girlfriend of the year in 2010, she also has bride of the year in 2011 – that same year, the runner-up was Kate Middleton – so well done on that. She’ll get mother of the year too, in time.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE MORE CHILDREN?
Artika: We’re negotiating. Shan wants more but I don’t know how to manoeuvre with more than one child in my life.
Shan: I have three siblings while Tika has one. For me, it’s very important for a boy to have a sibling, so I would expect us to have at least two kids.
Artika: My brother is six years younger than me. Maybe that’s why we didn’t connect, because he’s from a “different generation”. Shan’s family members are very close to one another. They have a Whatsapp group and text one another constantly, every day. When there’s nothing going on, someone will go, “What’s wrong? Where’s everybody?”.