“We live in a boat! Yes, it’s been a wonderful journey for the children! We took this alternative lifestyle as we wanted to experience nature right at our doorstep. It also gives us a different perspective in life and a new sense of freedom. There were adjustments to make, as living in close proximity meant getting our elbows in each other’s way. But with the smaller living space, we spend less time with housework and have more family time. So what’s to say that we cannot have the adventure of our lives with children?” ~ Darren Lim & Evelyn Tan, artistes & parents to four children: Kristen (8), Jairus (5), Way (3), and baby Elliot (3 months).
What is the major influence that led both of you to want more children?
Darren: As a boy, I enjoyed weekly gatherings and fellowships with our extended family at my grandparents’ place. We always had so much fun with our cousins. The weekly visits were very important to my younger brother and I as there were only two of us.
Evelyn: Although I like children, I was not initially geared towards a big family as I did not come from one. I have only one younger brother.
I always knew I wanted to start a family and was only influenced later by Darren to have a BIG one. We did compromise on the number of children as Darren wanted half a dozen initially; but we eventually agreed and are very contented with four children, plus age’s catching up on us!
How do you manage your lifestyle as a couple, parents, employees and celebrities?
Darren & Evelyn: As a couple: When we’re not working, we make it a point to have our traditional Friday night dates without the children. It is important for us to spend time together to keep close and bond with each other.
We do what we used to do when we were dating, e.g. watch movies, dinner, etc. It has been a bit more challenging now with baby on board (no pun intended!) but we hope to get back to our date nights soon.
As parents: We bring the children on holidays occasionally. These holidays are great opportunities for bonding and educational purposes. A recent holiday to Nongsa, Indonesia, has been really memorable for its many ‘firsts’ – the ‘first’ holiday with Elliott on board and the ‘first’ boat trip with another family, our friends and their children!
Sometimes, we indulge our children with food, especially chocolates, since it’s also my (Evelyn’s) favourite, as well as their requests to sleep with us.
As employees and celebrities: Darren is the breadwinner but he also helps with the household chores and children, while I (Evelyn) take care of the family, our home, ie the boat, and the children’s education. I feel fortunate that we have extended family help that allows me to take on some project work, e.g. freelance childcare/education-related hosting jobs – a lateral career move but it helps me keep up with the world outside the boat!
Darren carries the bulk of the work-career bit so that we can have a more sustainable income. He has opted to be a freelance artiste so that he can be a little more selective on the jobs, in order to have time with the children and watch them grow. He feels strongly that he must do this before it’s too late; before they begin to have their own lives.
How do the children affect your relationship as a couple?
Darren & Evelyn: Our children have bonded us and made us even closer as a couple. They provide us with a better sense of “togetherness” and identity as a family. There are many situations that make us discuss and think through how we look at things. It also provides us a platform to share our views.
For example, with Elliott’s arrival we faced more challenges in meeting the needs of all four children. I (Evelyn) voiced my concerns about not being able to manage Jairus’ and Kristen’s academic work while coping with Way’s recent bout of challenging behaviour. We decided that our children’s emotional well-being would take priority, followed by their academic work. Although there are differences in opinions, we always communicate and seek to compromise in order to narrow down the chances of future conflicts. This helps us grow stronger as a couple.
Parenting is definitely not a bed of roses. How do you strike a balance between the positive and negative?
Darren & Evelyn: We employ different parenting styles to suit each of our children’s character and needs.
Kristen, being first-born and having had more adult contact, is more sensible and rational. With her, we only need to reason and explain things to help her understand confounding situations.
Jairus is quieter and good-natured. We have to be more conscious in making the effort to parent him proactively by creating opportunities to hear him out.
Way, ‘The Character’ of our family, tests boundaries like none of his older siblings. He is a very affectionate boy, so we are careful not to discipline him the ‘hard’ way all the time (which is really tempting with a challenging character like his!)
With a big family like ours, we wish that we had more time to do things with each child. It does get tiring sometimes to maintain consistency in how situations should be dealt with and resolved. However, despite the occasional lapses in consistency, our children still get the right picture in the long-run as these ongoing lessons sink into their subconscious mind.
How do you continuously commit to your large family?
Darren & Evelyn: We had always wanted a big family and one thing we’ve learnt is never to look back and enjoy every day. Looking after our lovely family together is a commitment in itself and we are happy to do this every day.
We believe that we will be able to have enough to go around as long as we have faith to guide our kids, supply them with what they need, even with home schooling, and trust that we are doing the best for our children.
What do your peers and children think of the choice to live in a boat?
Darren & Evelyn: Making the decision to live on a boat brought different reactions, ranging from incredulity to envy. Friends who know us personally are generally supportive.
A major difference (which is great) is waking up to a different scenery when we sail to different places. Our everyday life is slightly more fluid and less routine because of where we end up – this is something we all look forward to this year!
What are the values and principles you would like to inculcate in your children?
Darren & Evelyn: We hope to instil good values that will enable them to become responsible adults, and to give back to society. We do this on a daily basis and by inculcating good values in them. We explain to them about things they should or should not do. We teach them about good manners and encourage proper behaviour by greeting and respecting their elders, i.e. their parents, grandparents, relatives and our friends, etc.
We hope they become respectful and ‘others-centric’ and we make it a habit to model what we preach so that they can mirror us.
Just the other day, our eldest girl, Kristen, told us that we were very caring people when she saw us giving away our car park coupon, which was still valid, to someone else in the car park. The comment made us feel really good and gave us the affirmation that we are doing alright as parents.
What are your hopes and dreams for your children?
Darren: We’ll leave the dreams to the children as the possibilities are endless. With the fundamentals and values we inculcate, we hope they will be able to pursue their dreams and be happy to do what they want to do within ethical boundaries.
Evelyn: We hope they pursue their dreams without being afraid of societal opinions. It should not only be about how much money they earn, but more importantly they grow up to be happy people and do what their hearts desire.
Even if the dream remains a dream, it is still worth the try to chase it, enjoy the journey, learn from it, and become better people.
Maybe Baby thanks celebrity couple Evelyn Tan and Darren Lim for sharing their story.