Getting a master's degree, starting her tuition centre and raising 3 kids: This Singapore mum has done it all

PHOTO: Eileen Toh

After quitting the teaching profession to dedicate her time to her family, it didn’t take long for Eileen Toh to realise how much she missed it and that it was, in fact, her life’s true calling.

Soon enough she found herself starting a whole new tuition centre!

Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the mumpreneur. To add on to that, she was also studying for a master’s degree and caring for three children, and had to work very hard to get to where she is now. 

To learn her full story, theAsianparent spoke to Eileen, co-founder of Genius Plus Academy. She shared with us her secret to success and the challenges she faced along the way as a tutor and a mother.

Her passion for teaching led her to start a tuition centre

While working at school, Eileen enjoyed teaching young children and seeing them grow over the years. Having great, fun and supportive colleagues also helped a lot. 

However, wanting the flexibility to plan her time, she eventually made the difficult decision to leave.

Eileen shares, “Still, teaching was something I did not want to give up. With the encouragement from my friends and family, I decided to start my own tuition centre.”

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With an interest in early childhood education and hopes to further improve her teaching and curriculum planning, Eileen applied for a master’s degree in early childhood education.

“I also wanted to be able to design my own curriculum, and incorporate fun elements. For my lower Primary students, I’m using a lot of games and fun activities to help them learn with us,” says Eileen.

She adds, “There are activities like bringing them to the supermarket near the centre, bringing them on an excursion to do map reading and role-playing games. These are all to develop their interest in maths and to help them learn better experientially.”

Starting a tuition centre of her own allowed Eileen to do exciting activities with children and their parents.

When asked what made her so passionate about teaching, Eileen answers, “Forming bonds and ties that last for years, and seeing a child grow. Each individual lesson is a little rewarding, especially when you see students walking out from the lesson being able to solve some questions or understand some concepts.”

The challenges along the way

But even with her devotion to teaching children, Eileen still faced a few bumps in her journey to starting a tuition centre.

Aside from handling the many roles in the centre, the mumpreneur was still studying for her master’s degree – all the while pregnant with two kids!

“When I first started out, I took a leap of faith,” Eileen tells theAsianparent. “I signed on a lease for my tuition centre even though I had zero students. I had to pay rent and also print marketing materials to distribute,” she explains. 

“Furthermore, I didn’t take a salary for my tuition business until I had sufficient revenue to cover costs. I did all the administrative work on my own in the beginning and ran a one-woman operation for a while,” she adds.

To top it off, Eileen was also simultaneously handling administrative aspects of her husband’s economics tuition business in addition to her own tuition business.

“I would be spending time with my children in the mornings, send them to school in the afternoon, go off for my classes in the late afternoon, then rush to the National Institute of Education after my classes in the late evening,” she shares.

During this time, even when Eileen would get home late in the evening, she still needed to do grading work while clearing administrative tasks. During weeks when she had assignments to submit for her master’s programme, the mum of three often stayed up late to complete them.

Balancing motherhood while starting a tuition centre

While taking care of her three boys, Edison, Elon and Elias, Eileen also had her own set of struggles juggling motherhood with handling a tuition centre.

Eileen says, “You can be really successful in life, whether it is building a successful business, running a country or out there changing the world, but many successful people in the world did seem to struggle with raising children ‘right’!

“That said, I do see many ordinary people around me who make excellent parents who raise children with good character,” she adds.

Eileen shares the challenges she faced as a working mum of three.

1. Health

Eileen has had various health scares with both her kids and herself. In fact, all three of her sons were born prematurely.

For instance, her eldest son caught measles before he turned one, just a month away from being eligible for vaccination. He also had episodes of febrile seizures with a high fever reaching 41 degrees Celsius. He was even hospitalised on multiple occasions.

“There are some things that are within our control – but there are also things that are not within our control. We can try to reduce the risks of ‘bad events’ but we cannot eliminate the possibility of them occurring entirely,” advises Eileen.

2. Food

Eileen’s kids are picky when it comes to food and they all “have their preferences and dislikes”.

She shares, “One of our boys had a severe stomach flu episode when he was two and developed a severe aversion to many types of food such that he would only take plain porridge – no meat, vegetables, fish or fruits. For a period of time – he was underweight.”

“I think parenting is a continuous and ongoing journey. We will always face challenges, and some challenges will be really hard to overcome. I just hope that our kids can grow up to be healthy and have good values and character, and that’s my priority,” Eileen helpfully notes.

Career or family: Do you have to choose?

It has become a common struggle among parents to decide whether they should continue working or focus more on their family. As every mother has differing circumstances, Eileen doesn’t feel like she’s in a position to give advice regarding this. 

But she can, however, share her own struggles in choosing between her career and her family. 

1. Find and strike a good balance between career and family

“I fully enjoyed my time as a school teacher. It was very rewarding to teach in a school and I have a lot of contact time with my students across two years. I’ve also had extremely fun, supportive and awesome colleagues. My time in school was a blast,” says Eileen.

“Yet, with most of my weekdays starting at 7am and ending at 7pm, I hardly had any time for my family,” she tells theAsianparent. “Now that I’m running my own tuition business, it’s not that I actually work fewer hours, but I do have the flexibility to plan my time.”

“It’s not easy to find a balance, and I’m still constantly tweaking and trying to find a good balance between career and family,” she makes sure to add.

2. Get support

“I was also really fortunate because I had support from my family and my helper. I can go to work knowing that my kids are in good hands,” Eileen shares.

She also says that her husband “co-shares” parenting responsibilities. Eileen finds this is important in a family where both parents are working.

Advice for other mums who want to start their own business

Eileen also shared a few tips for other mummies who aspire to be mumpreneurs themselves.

Starting a business is not always easier than being a salaried employee

1. Taking leave is not straightforward. You don’t quite fully go away on childcare leave, sick leave or maternity leave – you still have to be somewhat reachable, doing some level of work when you are on leave – if it’s your own business.
2. When you stop working, your business stops too.
3. There’s no stability.

You do get more flexibility with your time

1. Starting your own business doesn’t mean that you work less. In fact at times, you do end up working more.
2. Yet, you gain some flexibility in terms of planning your time – for instance, I get mornings with my kids daily.

Do something that makes you happy

1. It’s dreadful to live life doing something that you are not happy doing.
2. Find someone you enjoy spending time with to spend the rest of your life with.
3. Spend time with your children.
4. Do a job or start a business on something that you are passionate about.
5. Study things that you enjoy learning about.

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This article was first published in theAsianparent.

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