Local Mandopop superstar Stefanie Sun may soon be releasing songs inspired by her baby.
Speaking to Life! in a one- on-one interview at Goodwood Park Hotel on Tuesday, the 34-year-old says she has found herself “making up songs” and singing to her son, now six months old, all the time.
Stefanie Sun on her career comeback. — ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH
Sun, who gave birth on Oct 30 last year, adds with a smile: “I don’t jot these songs down, so they kind of get lost. But I definitely think my baby’s very inspiring.
“I can’t really talk about this yet because it’s still a bit abstract for me, to put it as something that translates into music. But there is something quite special about him inspiring me.”
She confesses that she is working on her new album but declined to reveal much else. “I can’t say too much about it, but that I’m working on it. I also hope to do a touring concert in January next year,” she says.
This is her first interview in Singapore after becoming a mother. It was held after a press conference where she was named the new brand ambassador for Abbott’s Similac-Gain range of products, including baby formula.
She officially returned to work in late March – about a year since stepping out of the media spotlight, and five months after giving birth – when she did a photo shoot and interview for Harper’s Bazaar Hong Kong magazine.
Already admitting to feelings of separation anxiety, she says: “I think of him constantly, and I know that going back to work is something that mothers feel very torn about. It’s like, ‘Oh, how can I go back to work – it makes me so terrible.'”
Which is why she has decided that she will be away from home for a maximum of three days at a time.
“The child is everything, and he becomes everything that you think about. If I miss him too much, maybe it won’t even be three days.”
But there was just no stopping her from going back to work, no matter how “torn” she feels.
Calling music an “integral” part of her life, she says: “Music has been a part of who I am for a long time, so I feel like I have to take it up again. It’s like artistic gratification.”
Whether or not she manages to make a big comeback remains to be seen but, either way, she will not be too bothered.
“When you’re a mum, there’re some things that are not that critical anymore. Like, whether I am still popular.
“Not that that’s not important, but you feel like you really need to focus on the right things such as your baby, and being a mum hones that skill and makes it more razor-sharp.
“If I’m super popular, then that’s great. If I’m not, maybe I’ll shed a tear, and get back to being a mum.”
At least she has a “great” support system, especially in her husband, Dutch-Indonesian business executive Nadim van der Ros, 35.
With her husband Nadim van der Ros (above) at their wedding. — PHOTO: COURTESY OF STEFANIE SUN
“I am very lucky because he has been awesome with regards to me going back to work. And he is very open-minded – he doesn’t think that looking after children should just be a woman’s job.
“He does everything that I do, so if I’m away, I know that he will talk to the baby, put him to bed, change the diapers and play with him. It really helps to have good family support.”
Compared to her husband, whom she describes as “very orderly”, she reveals that she is more spontaneous as a mother.
With a hearty laugh, she says: “When my baby wakes up from a nap, I’m the sort who is, like, ‘yes, let’s go.’ I’m much more impatient, compared to my husband who is very orderly. So, yeah, it will be quite a ride for my son.”
The personality difference is also why the couple occasionally find themselves disagreeing about parenting methods.
Sun explains: “I’m the type who won’t be able to wait to go and see new things with the baby. But my husband will be like, ‘Can you not carry him now? Can you let him wake up first?’
“It’s little things like that where we will disagree a bit.”
What she is certain about is that she does not want her child to be in the media spotlight, if possible. She draws the line at revealing his name, for instance.
“Details about him – it’s not something I would volunteer. But at the same time, I don’t want to limit my lifestyle. I want to go out with him. I want to be able to show him what’s a tree, a banana, a park.
“I’ve already had passers-by paparazzi and, while it is annoying, I don’t want it to affect what I want to do for him.”
As a celebrity mum, she also worries about how people will treat her son in future.
“I was just thinking of all the ‘what ifs’. I don’t know what it’s like being my child. I don’t know if he’ll get better treatment or worse because of me but, either way, it’s not great whether he gets preferential treatment or gets bullied.
“That’s why I would avoid this sticker on him, that oh, his mum is a celebrity. I can’t avoid it, but I probably have to address it later on when he asks, ‘Mum, why is everyone looking at you?'”
Sun is, after all, arguably Singapore’s biggest Mandopop export.
With a unique husky voice and the uncanny ability to coax perfect notes out of the shortest musical phrase, she was refreshingly different from the sweetie-pie idols and powerhouse singers dominating the markets when she burst onto the scene in 2000.
Today, she has 11 studio albums to her name, including My Desired Happiness (2000) – Taiwan’s top-selling album for 2001 – and Stefanie (2004), which won her Best Female Vocalist at the Golden Melody Awards.
She has also sold reportedly more than 10 million albums and is known for karaoke-friendly hits such as the folksy “Cloudy Day” and “Start To Understand”.
For now, the singer is still figuring out how to find the “perfect balance” between work and motherhood. That said, she is also confident that things will be fine.
“I think my husband and I are pretty good parents. We’ll be all right.”
In the beginning, though, she admits to finding herself completely flustered. “As a first-time mother, I would be quite nervous and apprehensive about everything. I would be very worried about checking the diapers or whether my baby’s eating right.
“During my first month as a mother, life was a roller coaster. I would burst into tears every time I saw my mum.”
She then thanks her “main” support system, other than her husband, comprising her helper and her parents, whom she says make things much smoother.
“They help make everything easier. And my mum, especially, is my benchmark for what it takes to be a good mother.
“I appreciate her so much more now, knowing how hard it is to take care of a baby. I appreciate the unconditional love from her, and how she’s always there for me whenever I need her.”
Having her mother as a guide, she does not feel the need to consult other celebrity mothers for advice.
“I haven’t gone to them because I’ve got my own mum. But the thing is, even if you don’t look to other mothers for advice, there are 10,000 people telling you what’s best.
“The hardest thing about being a mum is deciding what methods to choose and what you do go with,” she says.
A photograph of Sun holding the hand of her baby boy (above) — PHOTOS: COURTESY OF STEFANIE SUN
As her son is growing, she lets on that she has been incessantly documenting his every move in photos and videos.
With a chuckle, she says she is “aware” that she is beginning to overdo it, especially since she has a habit of showing the videos to friends and family.
“I’ve been documenting everything from when he first sat up to when he was first babbling. But you soon realise that it’s only you who finds it all really amazing. The latest thing for him is all the cackling that he does.
“I don’t get sick of watching these videos but I am aware that I’m sharing them with my friends too much. Like, oops, I have already shown them, so I better keep them to myself.
“But you know, you can’t help it. My child is everything.”
Reportedly, she started her child on breastfeeding, but stopped after two months after being diagnosed with mastitis, or inflammation of the breast tissue.
Ask her about it and she is vague. “Breastfeeding for me was quite a painful process. Whatever pains you can identify with, I’ve basically experienced them all. But I think it’s still very personal, so I won’t go into detail,” she says carefully.
“As long as my baby is happy, healthy and eating right, I’m happy,” she adds cheerfully.
Post-childbirth, she retains her girlish figure. The pretty, slender singer says she has already “lost most of the baby weight”.
“I’m still 4kg above my usual weight but weight gain is really the last thing on my mind. I’m running around all the time, so I think I will be able to lose it.”
Reportedly, her former weight was around 43kg.
As her baby has grown to be so “robust”, carrying him is exercise enough, she adds. At six months, he weighs 9kg – almost treble his birth weight of 3.4kg.
She says with a laugh: “I get regular exercise from just carrying him. I can’t even stand up all the time carrying him.”
So far, her baby has been “very easy to handle”, but it is not just about him having “such a good appetite”.
“He also sleeps quickly and easily, from 7pm to 7am, so he’s really great. But of course, sometimes he shows a little personality, like when he gets impatient.”
With her being so busy with her baby, she has no plans for a second child, at least for now.
“At this moment? No, I feel quite tied up. But maybe when I feel like I’ve gotten the hang of motherhood, then I will.”
She rates herself rather highly on her parenting scale so far.
With a laugh, she says cheekily: “In my son’s eyes, I am the best mother in the whole world. But then again, he does not have much of a choice.”
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on May 2, 2013. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.