American expat Althea Parker shows us around her seven-bedroom, three-storey home on Ceylon Road on the East Coast of Singapore.
Who lives here: Althea and Jawan Parker and their children Miles (10), Kennedy (8), Cole (6), Quinn (4), their two helpers and their dog Silver.
Size of the house: Seven bedrooms across three floors.
Personal style: Natural, down-to-earth and reserved.
Style of home: Functional and child-friendly.
Althea’s favourite room: The living room, because of the comfortable furniture, open style and natural sunlight.
Since moving to Singapore seven years ago the Parker family has doubled in size, and they now reside in their biggest house yet: a seven-bedroom, three-storey home on the East Coast. American expat Althea Parker explains why it works for them.
With four children, one puppy, two parents and two helpers under one roof, it would be easy to assume there’s a little chaos in the Parker home. When I arrive, however, the older children are happily spring-cleaning their bedrooms, the younger ones are at preschool, and puppy Silver sits in his pen after an enthusiastic greeting as Althea welcomes me into her clean and calm home.
Chatting to Althea about her career path in the US, it becomes clear that she’s driven and determined, with a strong work ethic, but also has family at the heart of whatever she chooses to do. She began in engineering, working for a military helicopter manufacturer. Deciding this wasn’t right for her, she moved into business consulting, focusing on marketing, before returning to school to study for her MBA. Her next role was within TJX’s marketing department, supporting the Marshalls and HomeGoods brands.
During the time her first two children were born, Althea took a more flexible role at a market research company, which gave her a better work-life balance. When her husband Jawan, who works in the finance industry, was offered a position in Singapore and they relocated in June 2008, they viewed this as a short-term stint.
“I was in the first trimester of pregnancy with our third child, and the physical and emotional upheaval was definitely hard.” Seven years on, and with two more children having joined the Parker family, that upheaval seems to have been worth it.
From West to East
The Parkers lived into a condo across from Tanglin Mall for their first four years here. “It’s a really convenient location, particularly for anyone new to the island,” says Anthea. “With the children at the Overseas Family School (OFS) at that time, it just made sense. But when we moved them to the UWCSEA East Coast campus, their daily commute became significantly longer, and it was harder for me to commit to volunteering there.”
For this reason, the family moved to the East Coast three years ago, initially into a condo just down the street from where they are now. Then, just as their contract was due for renewal, the owner suddenly decided to sell. The Parkers had six weeks to find somewhere else to live. “It was in November last year, and our choice was between this house and another one nearby. Not only is this the first time we’ve lived in a house here or in the US, but it’s also the biggest place we’ve lived in.”
It is indeed a large house, but it doesn’t look as if this sizeable family has struggled to fill it. “We didn’t go all out to find stuff to fill the place, and most of our pieces were purchased here in Singapore,” says Althea. They also had help from furniture business WTP; Althea says that its owner, Mimi Somjee, was a great help in sourcing the pieces they needed for their new home.
The Book Business
Home and family commitments aside, Althea and Jawan have also been kept busy establishing their personalised children’s book business, ABC Me, in July last year. After enjoying a personalised book that was a gift to their eldest son, Miles, while they were still in the US, they looked in vain for something similar here in Singapore.
“We were hard-pressed to find a customised gift book that was fun and engaging, with fresh and contemporary illustrations,” they say.
The ABC Me books spell out a child’s first and last name letter by letter, and also include their name in the illustrations, depending on the style of book chosen. They reinforce letter, name and animal recognition, and customers can even choose to include the child’s Chinese name. Books usually reach their recipient within two weeks, and there’s free shipping within Singapore.
I ask Althea why she’s keen to stay so busy, and she admits that it might be easier to cut back. “But it’s important for me to be a role model for the kids, especially in this day and age of little job security. My family and Jawan’s are fairly ‘blue collar’, and there hasn’t been anyone who has started their own business. We wanted to show our kids that it’s definitely a viable possibility. I also want to be a support to my husband; we’ve both worked and I want to make sure I continue to be a partner to him in that sense.”
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