It’s hard to see Susanne Ng as a research scientist. The petite mother of three is unassuming, soft-spoken, almost tentative in conversation, and is known more for her skills in the kitchen than in the laboratory.
Yet Susanne has a PhD in biomedical engineering and was a post-doctorate research fellow in a local research institute. In 2007, however, she gave it all up to become a full-time mother—discovering in the process the challenges and pains as well as joys and rewards of full-time parenting.
When her husband Guang You went to the US to do his masters degree, Susanne quit her job to accompany him. And that was when the challenges started.
One of the biggest difficulties Susanne faced was loneliness. Even though their first child Caleb was at home with her, she couldn’t really talk to the two-year-old. “It was very lonely,” she recalls. “There was nothing much to do, and Caleb was just a baby. It was like talking to a wall.”
Caleb cried a lot, which made him quite a handful. It was only later that Susanne and her husband found out that their son had mild Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which explained his behaviour.
During those times, Susanne relied heavily on prayer support from her friends, especially fellow mothers, and family support from parents and loved ones. She also tried to bring her son for more playdates, which gave her a chance to meet up with other mothers.
“It was very lonely. There was nothing much to do… It was like talking to a wall.”
But Susanne found herself missing work, as well as the social interaction that came with it. “I missed doing research,” she recounts. “I had a lot of creative energy, I was used to doing experiments.”
At the same time, Susanne also began to discover the rewards of full-time parenting.
Susanne with her family
Being There for the Teachable Moments
When Susanne was pregnant later with her third child, Charissa, she found she had trouble coping with two young ones at home, so she sent her second, Christine, to childcare. Soon, however, she found a change in the three-year-old. “She became quite disobedient,” says Susanne. “She must have picked up some bad habits there.”
For when Christine stopped going to childcare, she returned to “her normal self”, she adds, “very sweet and ‘guai’ (well-behaved, in Mandarin).”
The incident showed her the value of being around with her kids at home. “There are a lot of ‘teachable moments’ in daily life,” she explains. “When I see them fighting, I can teach them about what the Bible says and about God’s love. It’s very normal for them to quarrel. And it’s good that we are there to correct them right away. Taking care of my children is like a direct ministry with God’s people, where I can make the biggest impact on them.”
Susanne also finds she has more opportunity to do things with her children, such as bake together and read Bible stories with them, and to encourage them to spend more time on their books and less on the TV.
Not having a full-time job was also a big help when Caleb was diagnosed with ASD. It allowed Susanne to take her son through more intense intervention therapy. By Primary 1, he was able to go to a mainstream school.
It was then that Susanne saw yet again the grace of God in her family’s life. In Primary 4, Caleb had to be transferred to another primary school after he got into the Gifted Education Programme. “We were unsure at first,” she says, “but more than one Christian mummy friend assured me that God had plans for him. He decided, on his own, to get baptised this year, and we truly thank God for that.”
“Taking care of my children is like a direct ministry with God’s people, where I can make the biggest impact on them.”
(From left) Christine, Charissa, and Caleb, after they were baptised in 2019.
Learning to Trust God
One of the things that Susanne has been able to do a lot with her kids is pray—not just before bedtime each night, but also whenever the opportunity arises. “During the teachable moments when the kids are anxious or upset, we teach them to pray and to trust God. We keep reminding them that Jesus is the only way.”
The efforts to emphasise prayer in the family have paid off. When Charissa was four, she told her mother that whenever she was scared, she would pray to Jesus. “She also prayed to grow in kindness and love,” says Susanne with a proud smile. “At bedtime, the kids are the ones who want to pray.”
In fact, her kids’ childlike trust in God has taught Susanne a lot. “As a mum I have learnt from them,” she says. “They remind me to trust God and pray. As adults are more resourceful, we usually try to solve problems ourselves, or we will do something quickly. But my kids will remind me to pray first.”
Susanne takes her inspiration from Psalm 123, which repeatedly urges us to “look to the Lord”, who is always ready to show mercy. Also Psalm 103, which praises God for His compassion and mercy, and assures His people that they can go to Him because He is “slow to anger, abounding in love” (v. 8).
Recently, Susanne got another taste of God’s boundless provision after her youngest child, Charissa, was hospitalised for seizures. “Our pastors, church members, and discipleship group all prayed for us and visited us in hospital. On Mother’s Day, the seizures suddenly miraculously disappeared without any medication,” she says. “Praise God for healing her!”
“As adults are more resourceful, we usually try to solve problems ourselves, or we will do something quickly. But my kids will remind me to pray first.”
God also showed Susanne that He was not just looking after her children’s needs—He was also watching out for hers. Especially her need to create.
Susanne with her children and some of the cakes she has baked.
Getting Back to “Work”… In the Kitchen
Susanne’s foray into baking started in 2014, when fellow mothers at a weekly potluck encouraged her to join them and bake the occasional cake. Susanne instantly fell in love with this new hobby, which gave her an outlet for some of her frustrations about not working full-time. “I found I had a lot of creative energy to transfer into baking,” she says.
God has even given her direct inspiration for her recipes, says Susanne. “About five years ago, I had a dream one night, in which I was putting flowers into a cake. When I woke up, I tried doing that, and made my first pattern cake for my birthday—a sakura macha chiffon cake.”
“God has given me the gift and opportunity, so I want to honour Him in everything I do.”
Today, Susanne is well known for her elaborately-decorated chiffon cakes, which can come in the shape of animals, cartoon characters, flowers, fruits—anything that a buyer wants. She has also written several recipe books and been featured on TV shows and media reports around the world.
What gives her even greater joy is seeing God use her gift in baking to reach out to non-believers. She currently teaches cake-making in her church’s Culinary Arts Ministry, which gives church members an opportunity to invite their pre-believing friends. There, the gospel is shared while they wait for the baking to be done.
The classes have encouraged Susanne to keep using her talents to serve God. “God has given me the gift and opportunity, so I want to honour Him in everything I do,” she says.
This, she notes, is something that 1 Peter 4:10–11 emphasises: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
Susanne with many of her amazing creations.
A Fulfilling Time
There are days when Susanne misses being at work, but she has no regrets about her decision. “Being with my children has been very fulfilling,” she says. “There’s a lot of joy knowing that I have been contributing to their lives over the past 10 years.”
Being involved in this ministry to her own children, she adds, has given her far more “treasures” than any success at the workplace. “After all, in our Christian walk, earning lots of money and positions is worthless,” she says. “As Psalm 103:15–16 says, ‘The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more’.”
And while she would encourage mothers to try staying at home, she stresses that it’s a decision that both husband and wife need to make together. Full-time mothers also need support from prayer partners and care groups in the church, she adds, as they can feel lonely or disconnected from the community. Family support is also important. Her parents, especially her mother, was a significant role model and support.
One verse that has kept her going is Psalm 127:3, which reminds her that “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him”. Says Susanne: “When I was in secondary school, I had a Bible study leader who prayed with me and said that God gave her this verse for me. It influenced me, I felt it was my destiny to have kids. And they’ve really been a blessing.”
“Being with my children has been very fulfilling. There’s a lot of joy knowing that I have been contributing to their lives over the past 10 years.”
Susanne has written several books sharing her recipes and creativity.
Susanne’s Tips on Being a Full-time Parent
- Make sure your spouse supports the decision, and make it together
- Get friends, prayer partners and your church group to support you in prayer and practical ways
- Stay in touch with your family, other parents and the community through playdates and regular meet-ups. Or use WhatsApp chats when you’re too busy to meet, to pray for each other
- Make sure you have avenues to share your challenges with other parents