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Tips from an expat mum in Singapore

In this new feature, we profile a guest at one of Expat Living’s two monthly coffee mornings held specifically for mothers, to find out what they’ve learnt along their expat travels. Kicking things off is New Zealander Heather Sellen, who left Auckland 14 years ago for a job in London, little realising she would meet her future husband there, have one child in Singapore, one in Hong Kong and gain a cat to boot.

This is your second stay in Singapore; how did that happen?

My husband David and I lived here for six years from early 2004, and I gave birth to our daughter Evie, now three, at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. At the 20-week scan, we were told she had part of her brain missing and would experience complications during her life.

We relocated to Hong Kong when she was a year old, and shortly afterwards she was diagnosed with mild autism, speech delay and learning difficulties. In Singapore, we’d had the best paediatriatic neurologist, Dr Phauh, and the proximity of everything was so convenient. I hadn’t felt comfortable with the care Evie had received in Hong Kong, and where we lived it would take half a day to get Evie to her specialist, so I was very keen to come back to Singapore.

What challenges have you faced settling back into Singapore life?

One of our first priorities was to find specialist childcare for Evie. A friend recommended Wee Care in Tanglin and I was sold. It’s a fantastic nursery that’s fully equipped to deal with special needs children, and they provide a therapist for Evie who monitors her at school and comes to our house once a week for sessions.

Outside of nursery time, how do you keep your girls entertained?

Tanglin Mall is one of my favourite spots. The girls ride on the little cars, and I can get decent coffee while Evie and Piper (19 months) have babycinos and cookies. Attic Pals toy store opens at 9.30am, unusually early for Singapore, and is always worth a browse. Paragon is great as it has a Mothercare, an Early Learning Centre, a Toys R Us and an indoor play area. Across the road, in Takashimaya, it’s worth checking out the B1 floor – it’s a weird and wonderful treasure trove. I recently bought some refillable water pouches that are great for both adults and children, and some reusable bag seals (by Anylock) that keep the bugs out of cereal and other dry food.


On a rainy day… we go to Fidgets or Go-Go Bambini – great for getting the crazy out of the children.

On a sunny day… we try our new discovery, Port of Lost Wonder, the outdoor water-play pirate ship on Sentosa; great for killing time on a really hot afternoon.

Sunday afternoon is best spent… at Coastes on Sentosa. The girls can play in the sand and eat pizza for dinner while we enjoy a glass of wine.

Friday night is best spent… at Robertson Quay in search of a decent dinner.