Studying, working + raising multilingual kids – Power Mum, Claire Huang

Doctoral researcher Mum raising multilingual kids - Claire Huang 2

Claire is  every bit the cheery parent at Trehaus! She has a smile for everyone – friends, co-workers as well as the babies and tods who hang out at the Kids Atelier. Claire loves to check in on what’s happening and sometimes comes in to get some down time from all the research she’s doing for her PhD. Funnily, her adorable daughter, 15 month old Zoe, loves seeing what’s what on the coworking side of things. We’ve nicknamed her our “Little Escape Artist” as she loves to race out with glee the moment the Atelier doors open! We think she might need to take over as receptionist at Trehaus!

Come meet the Huang’s in this month’s Member Spotlight –  they love to work and play at Trehaus, and sometimes, we’re not quite sure if the younger Huang loves the idea of being at “work” more than the older one!

Doctoral researcher Mum raising multilingual kids - Claire Huang 6


How did you hear of Trehaus? 

My friend Stephanie Cohen recommended it to me. She said it was a life-saver when she need to work on a project. She also said the care-takers were lovely :)

How has your experience at Trehaus been so far? 

It’s been great! I was so thankful to be able to stay close to Zoe since this is her first experience with daycare. I really wish all parents could have a childcare situation like this, and especially breastfeeding mothers.  I realized that it’s a dream come true for a lot of people and I feel very lucky to have this flexibility.

What inspired you to go into epidemiology? 

My mom! She has worked at the health department for almost 30 years and she helped develop my interest in infectious diseases. She ran the laboratory and had to work during their STD clinic every Tuesday night for at least a decade. So I grew up knowing what STD clinic was, which is unusual for a 10-year-old. Growing up in the 90’s when we still talked about the AIDS epidemic (Magic Johnson, etc) also had an effect on me and encouraged my interests in biology and public health. Now my Mom is an epidemiologist at the local health department in my home town in Missouri, so she actually helped to train me when I got a job doing the same thing in a different jurisdiction. Eventually I wanted to learn more about epidemiological research methods so I moved to Seattle for graduate school.

Has motherhood affected your career path? 

Hahahahaha, YES! I thought I would have a baby and get right back to work on my dissertation. My first-born is turning four this fall and I’ve made only baby steps towards completing my PhD. So it’s been a journey. And when I return to work someday I now have a strong interest in pregnancy and childbirth outcomes, so I’d love to maybe work in maternal and child health epidemiology (although that’s my husband’s field!).

What’s it like bringing up your children in so many different cultures?

It’s been fun! And living in bi-lingual/multi-lingual cities has been great. I loved hearing my son say French phrases that he learned from daycare in Montreal, like Encore (more) and Fini (finished). For a while he would combine French and Mandarin and ask for “Encore NiuNai” or more milk. I’m sad that he’ll forget all the French he learned but we’re excited to be in Singapore. My husband’s parents are from Taiwan so it’s important to us that the kids learn to speak Mandarin.  Of course there are often challenges to raising kids in a different culture- you have to learn the baby-related lingo and parenting “norms”! Our last daycare teacher in Montreal spoke very little English so that was stressful for me. Here in Singapore there is a lot more English and it’s been so easy to get settled and communicate (much easier than in Quebec!). I’ve also realized that parenting is more similar than different all over the world.

Doctoral researcher Mum raising multilingual kids - Claire Huang 3

How has being in Trehaus helped you in your parenting journey?

It’s been wonderful to talk with other parents and the teachers here at Trehaus. I think it’s incredibly important for us parents to support each other. It took me several years to find a great support network in Montreal, so I’m happy to have found Trehaus only one month after moving here!

What’s your typical day at Trehaus like? 

For now I still spend a lot of time going back and forth to check on Zoe and prepare food for her, although I think she has settled in nicely.

Have you seen any changes in Zoe since she started? 

I feel fortunate that Zoe adjusted quickly, so I haven’t seen any big changes in her behavior. She’s nursing less (which I’m ok with!) and eating solid foods better, probably from watching everyone else eat. She really enjoys playing with her friends and I’m so happy about that. The socialization has been wonderful.

Doctoral researcher Mum raising multilingual kids - Claire Huang 5

Doctoral researcher Mum raising multilingual kids - Claire Huang 4

Any words of advice for moms like you who would like to bring an active toddler to work?  

It’s wonderful to bring your child to work but it is still a distraction, especially for someone like me who is always wondering what she’s doing and not on any fixed deadlines for work. I recommend setting boundaries for yourself and working up to fewer and fewer “check-ins”. Which, of course, is difficult because it’s very cute to see all the kids play together – like today when I saw a parade of toddlers in their diapers coming inside from water-play.  :)