May Phua unabashedly admits that she's not a very "on-the-ball" mum ("I don't let my kids take as many enrichment classes as they probably should"), but that doesn't bother her. What's more important for the bubbly 37-year-old actress (last seen in Mediacorp Channel 8's The Dream Makers last year), is to pay attention to her children's needs, listen to them and bond with them through conversation.
A cherished routine in May's home is having quality talk with her two boys, Shang, eight, and Keyan, four, before bedtime every night. "They love telling me how their day went and what they got up to with their best friends in school. But sometimes, we also chat about serious issues, like discipline and emotions.
"I never hide it when I'm upset with the boys - they've seen me tearing up before, and got scared and asked me what was wrong. I would say: 'You've hurt Mummy by doing something wrong. If you love someone, you shouldn't do anything that hurts them.' This way, they learn how to understand and respect others' feelings," she explains.
But the learning goes both ways, too. "We were brought up to listen when our elders were talking, but we shut off when it comes to our kids. Shang has taught me that what children have to say is equally important. He tells me: 'Mummy, you must listen to me!'"
And from Keyan, May has learnt to be more expressive. "Keyan is a loving boy and shows affection easily - he'll hug you and tell you he loves you. That's something my husband and I have picked up. My way of showing love and concern was to nag them; now, I say what I have to say and try not to nag so much!"
Another important bonding ritual is the family's annual road trip, which they take with her inlaws and helper. So far, they've been on three, to various parts of Australia. May swears by them as a way of teaching kids to be independent.
"We pack, carry and look after our own luggage - even the kids do this. We move around a lot, changing motels every two days, so it gets tiring. Once, when Shang was about six, we had just arrived at our motel, and he was hungry and asking for milk. I was exhausted, so I told him he'd have to look for the kettle and learn how to boil the water himself. His father and I poured the water into the bottle for him, and taught him how many scoops of milk to put in. That was when he first learnt how to prepare his own milk."