Gregory and Elaine Ho: God’s gifts to us
Married in 2000, Gregory and Elaine Ho took a while to conceive their first child. They went for fertility treatments, including a surgical procedure, and had planned to adopt a child before they had their firstborn in 2005.
“We had so much difficulty trying for the first child and were so happy when he came along. Then came the second, the third and the fourth and we just accepted them,” said Gregory, 45.
The children are now aged 9, 7, 5 and 3 years respectively.
When news of the third and fourth children was received, well-meaning friends and relatives asked, “Are you sure you still want another child? A fourth child will be a burden financially!”
“We have been asking God for children and when He sent more than what we asked for, we could not say ‘Stop giving us blessings’,” Elaine, 39, reasoned.
Helping to raise their kids are two domestic helpers. “Again it is God’s blessing. We haven’t had a problem with them,” added Gregory. Occasionally, his mother lends a hand.
Having many children fills the heart with joy, observed Elaine “When the children fight, they fight for attention at the same time. But when they are not at home, it is very quiet and lonely.”
“The blessings are uncountable,” added Gregory.
The daily routine sees the couple leaving home at 7.30am and returning after 8.30pm. “The time we have with the children is limited... but we believe God has a plan for us,” declared Gregory.
As for what they have to forego in raising a big family, Gregory was quick to respond, “No overseas holidays; most of the time we go for staycation.” Agreeing, Elaine added, “The farthest we have gone to lately is KL and Bintan.”
Many of the older children’s clothes and shoes are passed down to the younger ones. Recently, the youngest boy inherited his sister’s sandals. To make them his own, he was allowed to choose shoe accessories to attach to them. The pram, which was bought nine years ago, was used by all four children.
They are also told they will receive presents only twice a year: on their birthdays and on Christmas. The kids are fine with it, noted the proud parents.
“To us, material things mean short-lived happiness. Still we do treat ourselves once in a while,” said Elaine.
“Priority is always family,” said Gregory. “It’s a balancing act and planning helps. We put a priority on meeting the children’s needs. They get [academic] help when required.”
“We both attend meetings with their teachers,” added Elaine. The couple is in partnership with friends who run an accounting firm. “Being in a partnership helps because they know what we need. If we have to leave early one day, we will make up for it by working harder on other days,” explained Gregory.
“Faith is most important for us,” he added. “We make sure we attend church, the children go to catechism classes and
Ryan recently joined the altar servers.”
Teaching them the right values is another priority, said Elaine. “Having siblings has made them more willing to share. Their social skills are also better because they learn to gain our attention through better means [as opposed to temper tantrums].”
The couple make time for each other weekly. They also serve as wardens at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace.
Paulo and Giselle de Guzman: The optimum is 3
Coming to terms with the unexpected arrival of a third child soon after the second was born did not come easy for Paulo and Giselle de Guzman, both 38. “I was really, really scared in the first trimester,” said Giselle, referring to the stress that ensued following the news of her pregnancy.
Why not stop at two kids? “For us, the optimum number would be three. That’s what we were used to seeing in our respective families,” said Paulo, who used to work with a multinational IT company.
“I have no family member, including cousins, with less than three children,” revealed Giselle. “I saw how my mom and dad clustered together with aunts and cousins to help take care of my grandparents. There are a lot of benefits with multiples rather than just one child,” she added.
She realised that having the youngest has made the elder kids “better human beings. Gabriel, who has always been considerate, is now better able to put himself in other people’s shoes. Kara, at her age, teaches her younger brother, ‘These are your toes, these are your hands.’ She knows how to get along with others. Generally, it takes less effort to make them socially aware.”
On the other hand, more children means less time for friends, the couple said. “You hold back on hanging out with them because you know that you are needed around the house to help with the kids,” added Paulo.
The couple moved here from their posting in Japan eight years ago and the children, aged 71/2, 2 and 6 months, were all born here.
The couple recognised the need for “me” time, when one of them could have a facial and the other a body massage.
The children also had to grow fast, said Giselle. “When we had the third, we had no idea we would be sacrificing a lot. Gabriel used to get coaching from me for his school work, now he has to do most of his homework by himself.”
The couple admitted the need to consciously find time together. “Most of the activities we do are not couple activities but family activities,” said Paulo.
“Workwise, we needed to cut back on night work,” said Paulo. “From the start, we agreed that we would both be working so there was no discussion about one stopping work even when the third child came along.”
Added Giselle, “There are four questions I ask myself: ‘Does it fit into the 10 commandments – is it for God, is it morally right? Is it good for my family? Is it good for myself? Is it good for my friends?’.”
She likened prioritising to fitting big and small rocks and sand into a bucket. “We need to be choiceful. Put in the bigger priorities first and then try to insert the smaller ones into the crevices.”
Tips for young couples raising more kids