'My son, he's all that I have'
Supermum who works three jobs, seven days a week, says she gladly does this and more for the man in her life
If her son can win an award for his achievements in school, then surely his mother deserves even more.
Here's why: Madam Seah Yu Ping holds three jobs to feed seven mouths.
She has to look after Malcolm Teo, her parents and her brother, his wife and their son.
And she does it with her monthly salary of about $1,600, and the $1,500 she gets each month from her former husband after their divorce.
She also receives help from Nee Soon GRC and other organisations which provide her with food rations each month.
It's tough and Madam Seah, embarrassed about her situation, initially declined to speak. She said attention should go to Malcolm, her only child.
Last Saturday, Malcolm, 15, was awarded a $400 bursary at the MDIS 19th Scholarship and Bursary Awards Ceremony.
In spite of the odds, Malcolm, a Secondary 3 student from Naval Base Secondary, did well and has been moved to Express Stream from Normal (Academic).
But Madam Seah's story is no less significant.
When she was still married to her tertiary lecturer husband, she had a car and hardly worked. She held a part-time property agent job.
Then came the divorce, about eight years ago. And it was followed by years of struggling for her.
She moved out of her home into her brother's five-room flat in Yishun. She and Malcolm sleep in one room.
ONLY WORKING ADULT
She also has to support her brother and his wife.
The couple's only child was diagnosed with a rare epileptic disorder including hyperactivity when he was four months old.
Now nine, he requires 24-hour supervision by his parents as he has seizures up to ten times an hour every day.
They sleep in another room.
She also looks after her aged parents, who occupy the last room.
Madam Seah, 46, works seven days a week and sleeps only 2½ hours every night.
Meals for her consist of mainly cup noodles and water to stretch her money. She said it is fast and economical and it fills her up for her long hours in the day.
She said: "I was struggling to pay the bills and I did not want to worry my son, who was only in Primary 1 at the time. So I took three jobs to pay the bills."
For her first job as a newspaper distributor, she leaves home at 3am for her rounds and finishes at 5.30am.
She gets $350 a month for that.
She tucks her son in and pretends to be sleeping before sneaking out for work so that he will not worry.
For Madam Seah's second job at a call centre, she starts at 7.30am and ends at 3pm. She earns between $1,000 and $1,200 with this job.
Then she leaves for her third job, starting immediately as a flier distributor, which earns her $250.
After covering HDB blocks in Marsiling, Woodlands and Yishun, it will usually be about 11pm when she reaches home. She catches up with her son before they go to sleep.
She said: "I love it when we share about our day, because we tell each other our problems and we talk almost like friends."
Madam Seah said that the situation can become quite hectic at home at times, but she is grateful for the strong bond she has with her family members.
"We never quarrel because we all know nobody wanted this," she said.
She is also thankful for all the help her community has given her.
Despite her difficult situation, Madam Seah still jokes about her routine.
She said: "How I wish we had 48 hours a day, then I can take two more jobs to provide for my son better. I really don't mind.
"He's all that I have."
How I wish we had 48 hours a day, then I can take two more jobs to provide for my son better.
- Madam Seah Yu Ping
'My mum, she's the light in my darkness'
His mum is his hero.
"She's amazing. She's the light in my darkness and guides me through growing up. She's a superwoman!" said Malcolm Teo, 15.
On Mother's Day, he bought his mother a plastic rose and attached a handwritten note that said: "I'm grateful for everything you've done for me. Remember if anything happens, I'll walk along life with you."
Ever the pragmatist, Malcolm said of the plastic rose: "It's more practical, it'll never die! Plus...it's like my love for my mum!"
Malcolm, a Secondary 3 student from Naval Base Secondary, did not do too well for his PSLE and ended up in the Normal (Academic) Stream. And it was partly because he struggled emotionally as his parents were locked in an acrimonious divorce.
But an incident three years ago during the school holidays changed everything.
In the dead of the night, he woke up and was surprised to see his mother leaving home when she had told him that she was going to sleep.
"It then hit me - she had been pretending all the while. She was out to finish her first job. I suppose she didn't want me to be worried.
"That moment was painful, it changed me and urged me to repay my family."
Three days later, Malcolm followed his mother for her 3am shift.
Malcolm now studies an average of 10 hours a day, with his textbooks and notes spread out over the coffee table in the living room.
He does not own a computer and said it is quite a challenge to concentrate.
Without resources online and because he lives in a noisy home with his mother, grandparents, uncle, aunt and their son, Malcolm asked his teachers for help.
He cannot afford tuition classes and sometimes stays in school until about 8pm, leaving when the security guards ask him to.
But his hard work has paid off and he was promoted from the Normal (Academic) Stream to the Express Stream last year.
He said: "I felt so happy, but I was also scared. It's now five years of content squeezed into four."
Malcolm, who hopes to be a doctor, has a love for biology.
Then, like a typical teen, he quipped: "Perhaps I could try Manhunt too!"
His mother afforded herself a rare smile in our presence and gave him a big hug.
Malcolm proudly said: "She's taught me to treasure life.
She's an amazing motherly and fatherly figure. She's the best mum anyone could ask for."
MALCOLM GETS $400 BURSARY FROM MDIS
Malcolm Teo, 15, was awarded a $400 bursary last Saturday at the MDIS 19th Scholarship and Bursary Awards Ceremony.
He was one of 672 students receiving scholarship and bursary awards.
MDIS senior director Tan Gek Khim said of Malcolm: "MDIS has always believed in extending a helping hand to deserving students who have demonstrated not only academic ability but also a willingness to uphold the core values that define moral leadership.
"Malcolm is one such example who has, despite his tough family background, beaten the odds.
"We hope that Malcolm's story will inspire other students to push ahead and strive for success, no matter how challenging the road ahead of them may be."