We met up with Aarika Lee, a Musician and Marketing Director of Singaporean creative agency, Elementary Co. An intuitive and spirited woman, Aarika is also a mother to two loving children and whose stories are documented on Instagram. In this issue, she reveals how her upbringing, along with personal growth, have shaped her actions as a creative and a mother today.
This year's Women's Day theme is #BeBoldForChange. What can any individual do to contribute to that?
I guess that’s where my husband and I contribute to bridging the gap—we don’t think about what a mother or a dad should do, because both parties are equally capable in any given task, and instead decide who does it based on the situation at hand.
There are times when my husband has to take our children home while I have to leave for work, the cab or Uber driver would be surprised that the dad’s going home with the kids instead of his wife because, well, traditionally dads get dropped off to work while mothers are ‘responsible’ for taking care of the children.
Our society is a little more progressive these days. All the stereotypes, despite still existing, are faced with challenges from the ever-changing family, work and couple situations. I think people are increasingly more respectful in acknowledging equal status in responsibilities between men and women. That being said, there’s definitely room for improvement.What does an inclusive world look like to you?
A world where those walls of stereotypes are broken down. A place where people are kinder to each other and understand each other better.
When we refrain from boxing anyone to a certain space, life will be more fluid and our possibilities will become endless. We should not be restrained by what society expects us to do.Though I think there is some beauty in trying to break out of those challenges—it’s a journey that needs to be embraced. We are all working towards a world where everyone is included.
How do you constantly reinvent yourself?
I guess part of what comes with being in a creative industry and being married to a creative is that there is never a plateau. When you start to feel a constant, you begin thinking of something new, and it’s not due to boredom. It’s just in our nature to create new things and situations. I think that goes with reinventing oneself—being aware of the changes that are taking place in your life. One significant change for me has been motherhood. My actions and endeavours are shaped by how I would answer to my children when they grow up. Shape your actions by intentions.
People often ask me about my head wrap. But it really started with a bad haircut. Simply put, make use of positive changes and adjustments to cope with down times. The most important thing is to, above all, be a human being regardless of the roles you take on in life. Be honest with yourself.
Change is classic. Never be afraid of what those changes might be. Be fearless in experimenting.How has motherhood changed you?
It taught me that there’s no point in sweating the small stuff. Having kids means that tea time will not go to plan, mostly. It’s important to be present.
Furthermore, it’s really in that moment when they say the funniest things or are amazed by the simplest things that surround them. I find myself looking out for new things to show them, be it a bug in the grass or a butterfly in the air. As an adult, you tend to get so caught up that you overlook the beauty of what’s around you. My kids have taught us to pay attention to our surroundings, ourselves and to them.
Know what’s important in the grand scheme of things. People think that as a mother, you’re responsible for educating your children. If anything, my kids remind me daily that I only have one life and that I should embrace it to the fullest.Do people do that thing where they try to tell you how a parent should act?
It happens all the time. I think my friends, and even my husband and I are very unconventional parents. You know what? Come to think of it, it’s actually pretty common these days. There are times when we take our kids out and end up staying past their usual bedtime. But I feel that what’s important is for them to also be part of our lives.
A lot of parents change their lives to fit their children. I will never disregard their efforts but I know it’s not for everyone. To us, it’s important that our children know who we are and what we do. The best part is that they enjoy it too. They love being able to go to a gig and watch people play music. As parents, it’s important to feed the passion and enthusiasm they have for life, and show them that things like that are tangible. As musicians, I think it’s great we get to immerse them in our work.
When you become parents, the whole world feels like they have to give you advice, which is not a bad thing. I believe every advice comes from good intentions. But every parent-child combination and family situation is different.You should be able to write your own family story. As much as it’s good to heed the advice from those who are experienced, it’s also important that you recognise your own experience and the child you’re bringing up. It’s never going to be the same as someone else’s.
Have you ever felt cornered or pigeonholed, whether intentionally or unintentionally?
I think I’m very lucky that I haven’t felt restricted in any way, as a woman, a mother or a creative.I grew up in a home in which we were always encouraged to express ourselves, be it keeping communication lines open or through art. We never felt hindered. On that note, the confidence one has today starts from home.
Even at work, I never really felt boxed in. Working at a creative agency, there are times when you feel like you can’t go full steam ahead with an idea in mind. But that happens when you have to answer to someone else, such as a client. It happens to almost everyone.
What has time taught you?
Time has taught me a lot of lessons. As you grow, you gain more experiences. The most beautiful thing about time is that you get to journey and make mistakes along the way.What's something you wish your daughter, Zola and other young ladies would constantly remember?
This goes to the top of my list—I want Zola to know how much she’s worth. A lot of times girls forget, whether they think they are worth this much, or this little.
There’s this wonderful saying, ‘We receive the love we think we deserve’ and it’s true. When you understand what you’re worth, you understand how much you can give and take.Girls, and even boys need to know from a young age that there is love for them. That knowledge alone leads them to experiment, build the guts to go forth and live their lives focused on their goals, and worry less about the negative consequences.
Finally, what's Women's Day to you?
It’s a day to champion women, from the past and present, who ignite change and pursue the things their heart seek. We are fortunate today with the way the world and our society work. We deal with much lesser hardships in terms of patriarchal power. That being said, there are still women who go through things that women like me don’t. There are single mothers who still aren’t eligible for baby bonuses. Money plays such a big part in raising a child and if anything, these mothers need it more than those who have more support.
Women’s Day is really about celebrating these people who fight to keep what’s theirs. Even if you don’t have a child, you’re still a mother in other ways, as a creator of art or a business. Mothers are at the forefront of humanity, which is exactly what we need to build a strong society.