Our Stories: Wonder Woman by Day and Night

Wonder Woman by Day and Night

  #60Stories

Ask Ms Gloria Soo, a 50-year-old life and business coach, about her family, and she immediately lights up. Her warmth and energy are infectious even over a video call, and it’s easy to see why at work, she’s known to clients as the wonder woman of sales. But beneath her energetic exterior, she’s tired too — exhausted from waking up at least three times a night to care for her daughter, 21-year-old Carolyn, who has intellectual disability.

Carolyn was born with a type of Tuberous Sclerosis which led to a deformity on the left side of her brain. She requires constant care, and although the family’s domestic helper looks after her in the day, Ms Soo takes over at night.

The Power of a Mother’s Love

Balancing work and caregiving is no mean feat, but when asked what motivates her, Ms Soo seems surprised that the question is even asked. “No matter what, she is my daughter,” she states in a matter-of-fact manner.

This mindset is what gave her hope when Carolyn was first diagnosed with intellectual disability. Ms Soo never lost heart, and invested tirelessly in interventions and treatments to help Carolyn live as “normal” a life as possible.

At the age of 4, Carolyn learned to walk and started to speak. Today, although she does not read or write, she can express herself in short sentences.

Helping entrepreneurs build their business, caring for her children, and volunteering her time and expertise to conduct workshops for MINDS Care Circle are all in a day’s work for wonder woman and super mum, Ms Gloria Soo.

Finding Hope in Heartbreak

MINDS Gloria Soo (3)
To ensure Carolyn lives as normal a life as possible, Ms Soo educates her family and friends on how to interact with her daughter, and does not shy away from bringing her out for social gatherings.

Everything changed in March 2022 when Carolyn was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Her condition deteriorated rapidly, and she began having extreme mood swings, changing from laughing to crying, angry and even violent in a matter of seconds.

The outbursts are unpredictable and there have been instances when Carolyn has laid down in the middle of the road, or started screaming and banging the door while on the MRT.

Despite these new challenges, Ms Soo’s hope remains. “Sometimes Carolyn realises what she’s doing and apologises, saying ‘sorry, mummy’. Those are the good moments and I see them as signs of progress,” she shares.

The Importance of Me-Time

To overcome the challenges of caregiving, Ms Soo is an advocate of self-care. Her personal choice of self-care activities are hiking and weight-lifting, as they have the dual benefit of helping her relax and keep fit, so she is physically able to continue her caregiving journey.

After all, if Carolyn were lying in the middle of the road or had to be carried from the couch to bed, Ms Soo would have to be strong enough to physically lift her. “It’s not always going to happen, but when it does, I want to be prepared,” she says.

She adds that ultimately, it does not matter what activity you choose. “Just don’t think about your child when you are doing it, because it’s your time to recover. You have to take care of your feelings before you can take care of your family members,” she affirms.

You have to take care of your feelings before you can take care of your family members.

Ms Gloria Soo
Mother of Carolyn

Developing A Social Support Network

Equally important is finding a good support system. On this front, Ms Soo counts herself lucky to have a support of her elder daughter, 23-year-old Cherylene, and her domestic helper, who has been with the family for over a decade.

However, she acknowledges that it can be difficult for other caregivers to find people to turn to for help. This is because others who are not in a similar situation may find it difficult to empathise and not know what kind of support they can offer.

With this in mind, Ms Soo has started offering courses with MINDS Care Circle, a platform for caregivers to come together and seek social, emotional and practical support. Her virtual workshops, “Managing Your Side Hustle” and “Personal Branding” — held in July 2021 and February 2022 respectively — drew on her experience as a business coach. In May 2022, she also conducted a workshop titled “Restoring Relationships” in which she shared her personal experiences as a mother and caregiver.

MINDS Gloria Soo (4)
Ms Soo’s eldest daughter, Cherylene, studied psychology and works at an agency overseeing integrated care. Her insights and advice have helped Ms Soo build a better relationship with Carolyn.

Celebrate Progress and Self-Belief

Proudly, she shares that she is still in touch with one of the participants, and has supported the lady start an online store that showcases and sells the work of artisans with special needs.

Seeing progress like this impacts her the same way as when Carolyn shows signs of improvement — it encourages her to do more. But with a plate so full, will she have time?

To this question, her advice to herself is similar to what she tells her clients: the biggest limiting factor is often ourselves. “Maximise your talent, maximise your surroundings, maximise your resources — believe that you will find a solution,” she encourages.

As MINDS celebrates its 60th anniversary, we applaud all caregivers for their selflessness and the sacrifices they have made to nurture their loved ones with special needs.

We recognise that being a caregiver to a person with special needs may be a difficult journey, but it is not a journey one has to travel alone. MINDS Care Circle offers caregivers of persons with special needs a community to share their struggles and successes, along with resources and events to empower caregivers.

Be a friend of our MINDS community! Explore volunteering opportunities or consider donating to our cause.

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NOTICE OF THE 59TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF MINDS: NOTICE is hereby given that the 59th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) will be held by way of electronic means as follows: Date: Saturday , 18 September 2020 Time: 9:30am (Registration starts at 8:30am) Venue: Online via ZOOM MINDS members will be receiving an email on the notice of AGM and are strongly encouraged to register your attendance to facilitate the verification process on the day of the AGM. For enquiries regardingthe AGM, members may email to agm@minds.org.sg or call 849607358