(From left), Esther, Su Ching, and Suzanne.
One kindergarten, three women, countless books. This is the story of how the paths of three mothers crossed and converged in a book club that ended up as a support group that helped mothers grow.
It all started in early 2014, when Lim Su Ching approached Jacqueline Chung, the Senior Principal and Academic Director of St James Church Kindergarten, which one of her two children was attending.
Su Ching had read a book by Danny Silk, Loving Our Kids On Purpose, and was inspired by Silk’s concept of making a heart-to-heart connection with one’s children. Such a connection, he says, has a further and deeper reach than family rules.
She desired to share what she had learnt with other mothers.
Unbeknownst to her, another mother had been speaking to Jacqueline about the same thing. Esther Tan, also a mother of two, had been ministered to by the book, The Mission Of Motherhood, by Sally Clarkson.
The book about the calling of motherhood had encouraged her with its emphasis on being intentional in nurturing the next generation amid the real struggles that mothers face.
Not wanting to keep a good thing to herself, she had bought copies to give to some mothers at her children’s preschool.
One of them had suggested meeting to discuss the book, and she discovered the joy of being in a community of mothers and sharing about their challenges in parenting.
So when Jacqueline broached the idea of a “mothers’ book club”, Esther readily agreed. Jacqueline then introduced her to Su Ching—and that’s when Heart-to-Heart Parenting Group (H2HP) was born.
“Take that first step to plant a seed; ask God to send people with a similar vision to water the seed, and trust Him to give the increase. God puts us in community and we are better together!”
“We started with trepidation,” recalls Esther. “I am quite introverted, so I have to prepare a lot before I meet new people. What prompted me was ‘stewardship’. I was guided by 1 Peter 4:10, which said that ‘each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace’. I wanted to be faithful in what God has equipped me with and be a blessing to others.”
Su Ching, too, marvels at how she and Esther immediately found a kindred spirit in the other, so that they could start talking about plans for the group in their first meeting.
“We experienced first-hand God’s promise in Proverbs 16:3, that when we commit our works to the Lord, He will establish our thoughts,” she says.
H2HP began with a group of 10 to 12 mothers meeting regularly at St James Church. Then, into this mix came a mother who had never experienced cell group life.
Suzanne Jung, a former TV journalist and news presenter, had resigned from her job to spend more time with her two children—then five and three years old.
The concept of joining a book club was novel to her and she did not know what to expect, but she eagerly signed up.
“Going to the library became a breeze,” Su Ching says. “All I had to do was open our chat group, and I’d have a ready list of curated books, recommended by people I trust!
“I read a lot,” she says, “but, somehow it never crossed my mind to pick up parenting books for guidance. I thought I was managing well with my kids, but I had questions, especially when navigating first-time experiences with my firstborn. I realised I was only parenting with whatever tools I had in my parenting toolbox, which were mostly learnt from the way my parents had brought me up.”
After joining H2HP and reading, sharing, and discussing parenting books with her “mummy friends”, Suzanne found her perspective broadening as she learned new parenting strategies.
“I acquired more tools for my toolbox, and it really helped to know which tool to pull out for different situations,” says Suzanne, who had a third child two years ago.
Mothers Share And Discover
Meeting to discuss the books they’ve read has helped the mothers discover many things about parenting—including their own behaviour and attitudes.
“Parenting requires us to first change ourselves,” says Su Ching. “The wisdom from books can help us see our shortcomings and reveal new ways of relating with our children. And when we share openly about how we are challenged to change the way we parent, we help each other move from struggle to strength.”
“These ladies are inspiring,” says Suzanne. “They showed me how I can be more conscious in my parenting and seek God in my journey.”
This honest sharing has helped them to apply what they have learnt from reading books like How To Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell, Parenting With Love And Logic by Foster W. Cline and Jim Fay, and How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
While the mothers could have just compiled a list of recommended books and disseminated it, they firmly believed that sitting down to discuss the books would help them discover much more.
“Recommending a title is not enough, it’s best to do it heart to heart,” says Su Ching.
Agreeing, Esther notes that the books are a platform for them to share.
She recounts how a fellow mum helped her figure out what to do when her teenage son got upset with her over her posting about him on social media.
“From my point of view, I felt that my ‘rights’ (to post my content) were being stripped from me,” she says. “I was saddened that he did not trust me to post photos that would not embarrass him.”
Heart-to-Heart’s founders and mothers.
But another mother who had older teens helped her understand that, as her son was still struggling to form his identity and self-esteem, he probably didn’t want to be judged on social media.
Says Esther: “When I saw the issue from my son’s perspective, I was able to move away from my hurt and engage him in conversation. We are still figuring out how to strike a middle ground.”
The book club, adds Esther, allows mothers to mentor other mothers.
Her point elicits a knowing nod from Suzanne, who says: “Hearing such stories prepares me for what’s ahead of me, as my children are slightly younger than Su Ching’s.”
And it’s not just stay-home mothers who can benefit from such sharing.
Working mothers also appreciate being part of a support group. “There was a season when I had a lunchtime group in the CBD,” says Su Ching. “We would meet, discuss a chapter over lunch, laugh, and share stories.”
All this sharing, she adds, has helped them see the wisdom of Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Says Su Ching of the meetings: “It was always life-giving and we would come away feeling refreshed, encouraged, and—as iron sharpens iron—more equipped.”
Mothers Spur Each Other On In The Faith
The book club has also spurred the mothers on in their faith journey.
“These ladies are inspiring,” says Suzanne. “They showed me how I can be more conscious in my parenting and seek God in my journey. We always open and close in prayer, and pray over all our children. My children see this and they in turn learn to pray more and trust in God.”
The mothers have also found that they can strengthen each other with the Word of God when they face challenges like their children’s examinations and the release of academic results.
“Parenting requires us to first change ourselves.”
Says Su Ching: “We encourage each other to remember Philippians 4:6-7: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’.”
To keep meetings focused on growth and learning, the women also emphasise prayer.
“We pray before each meeting and ask God to give a word in season to strengthen the mothers. And we close in prayer,” adds Su Ching.
And God has always given them a “word in season”, they testify, just as Isaiah 50:4 says:
The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
Mothers Inspire Others
Having benefited much from the book club, the founders have gone all out to invite more mothers.
As more mums joined the group, they brought in their knowledge and experience.
Suzanne, for instance, introduced her passion—children’s books. An ardent advocate of reading aloud, she showed the group how parents and their kids can get more out of reading books together.
Heart-To-Heart Mothers And Kids Having A Day Out.
Her recommendations, says Su Ching, opened their eyes to the wide range of children’s literature available.
“Going to the library became a breeze,” she says. “All I had to do was open our chat group, and I’d have a ready list of curated books, recommended by people I trust! This really enriched my children’s repertoire of books.”
The group also asked Jacqueline if they could set up a resource library in the kindergarten, so that the children’s parents could borrow these books. She readily assented.
Says Esther: “The kindergarten was very gracious to fund the purchase of some books on our recommended reading list. Till today, even though our children have graduated from St James, those books are still with the kindergarten.”
We Are Better Together
Are you feeling lonely in your parenting journey? The three ladies have this to say: ask God for a group to join.
“If reading this stirs something within you to be in community with other mums, then reach out and connect,” says Su Ching.
H2HP, she notes, had started with a simple introduction. She adds: “Take that first step to plant a seed; ask God to send people with a similar vision to water the seed, and trust Him to give the increase. God puts us in community and we are better together!”
Esther sharing about a book.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a book club, chips in Esther. Friends or fellow mothers of children in the same school can get together over other shared interests, too. This can then lead to regular meetings.
She says: “Do the mothers like to bake? Then form a baking group. Morning walks are always a favourite—you can organise a group around that activity.”
One beautiful product of mothers’ support groups, add the women, is friendship.
“We’ve cooked for each other, brought our kids on outings together, and even travelled overseas together—just the mothers, without our families!” Esther says.
“I realised I was only parenting with whatever tools I had in my parenting toolbox, which were mostly learnt from the way my parents had brought me up.”
Suzanne, too, says that she has never tired of attending the meetings. “We have created a group where we are allowed to be ourselves and there is no judgment,” she says. “We share, we listen, and we encourage one another. We celebrate our victories, we pray through our difficulties, and we rebuild our confidence as mothers. These meetings are life-giving!”
Heart to Heart’s Recommended Books
Loving Our Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk
The Ministry Of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, And Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
How To Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell
Parenting With Love And Logic by Foster W. Cline and Jim Fay
The Gift Of Failure by Jessica Lahey