Wednesday, 29th May 2024

Wednesday, 29th May 2024

Could success mean being a good dog groomer?

30 Nov 2018

Why not? A mother of two shares her reflections on why parents should see success differently.


Recently, I have been thinking hard about this question: what exactly is success in Singapore?

We often link our ideas of “success” to our assumptions of what a good life entails. In our context, a “good life” often has these two elements: title (power of some sort) and money (displayed for others to see). If the two are present, success exists. This is why we feel doctors, lawyers, civil servants are successful. They tick these two key boxes.

I think that’s the heart of many parents’ anxieties for their children.  When what our children are doing do not seem to fall within these parameters of success, we feel our panic level rising. 

But perhaps, we should pause and think again. How else can success look like in our children’s lives? 

I can share about my dog’s groomer, a young woman who runs a successful business and who is often fully booked. I stumbled upon her online and found her at the heart of an old HDB estate. 

“Why are you here?” I asked her. She explained that she was initially working at a mall but she found that all her talent and hard work went into her landlord’s pockets. She needed a more affordable option and decided to move. 

This young woman is skilful, she’s smart and she clearly enjoys her work.  Would you have thought that success was having your child become a good dog groomer?
I could have shared the story of my car mechanic whom I equate with my doctor. If he tells me that my suspension is shot or the gears need changing, I just nod and reach for my wallet. It’s like my doctor saying I have a tumour — why would I argue with the one guy who knows what he’s doing?  

Would you have thought that success was having your child become a car mechanic?

If you look at all the folks in your life whose work makes your life run smoothly, you’ll find they have such a range of skills and abilities. I know I do — they are essential to me because I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things. The hairdresser, the air-con maintenance guy, the cook at your favourite eatery, and every faceless, nameless person behind all the apps I rely on. If you think about it, that list is pretty endless. So why is it that we have such a narrow definition of what makes someone successful?

We are in one of the most transformative times in human history. We used to rely on this linear trajectory to success: getting into good schools, scoring straight As, graduating from university and landing a good job. But this is becoming the old way of thinking. 

These tried-and-tested formulas are swiftly being replaced by something no one even knows what anymore. This sort of change demands us to look elsewhere, and open ourselves to all kinds of unknowns. 

For parents, it starts with the belief that every child can pursue the one thing that will add value to another human being. Or in my case, to my beloved little animal.

Crispina Robert was a panellist at MOE’s Possibilities Panel at World Skills 2018. She is the Assistant Programme Chair (Diploma in Mass Communications) at Republic Polytechnic and a mother of two.