Wonder Mom

Mia Singson-Leon

We all have mothers that we look up to. Hers is a story relatable yet very contrasting from the typical parent in your school convention. One would be surprised to find out that this lady leads an establishment of 400 employees, she whips up a mean pasta on weekends, and tucks her two angels to bed late in the evening.

Mia Singson-Leon is the General Manager at Quest Hotel & Conference Center. Living the hotelier life of care and impeccable standards she maintains that things happen for a reason and how she rises to the occasion is what truly matters, just like her marriage.

“We want to be happy, healthy and become strong as a family.

My husband is working abroad, and that’s a struggle for us. We are doing our best to organize things so we can be whole again. He has been away for six months now and it has been a hard especially for me during the first three months,” she muses.

Something that she takes pride inis the fact that her life is mainly about her two kids. How Mia juggles two full-time jobs—running a hotel and raising a family as a hands-on mom —is something one would call her great unfolding.

Today, as we pay tribute to great mothers all over, let’s meet this mother-manager who believes her balancing act is nothing short of
a calling and a life of nurturing.

As a career woman you must have a sense of structure and organization. Where did you get this?

You have to, or you don’t get anything done. I come from a medical background and I guess from there you learn to be organized with your time; and everything has a reason, why you do something. My father was also strict when I was growing up. He was a civil engineer and very organized so I guess I got that from him, too. I lived abroad, for eight years in Thailand, and there we didn’t have a household help, only our nanny while my husband and I would go to work. We had to make sure we were organized. It’s a matter of getting the hang of it. Also, when I am stressed I’d just clean the house. If I am throwing out things they’d know I am stressed. I don’t like clutter because it clutters the mind, too.

What’s an ordinary day for you?

There’s never an ordinary day for a hotel person. No routine. I asked friends who are also in the same industry and it’s the same thing. I’d start my day at seven to check my emails, organize office matters, check on the breakfast setup, then go around to make sure everyone is smiling and clean. And then morning briefings with department heads on what to tackle for the day. After that it’s free-flowing, depends on where I’m supposed to be.

And then when you’re home. At 7:30 p.m., and then it’s another round of chaos. At home I insist on being hands-on even though it drives me crazy. Ever since I had children I opted to raise them French- style. French mothers, even if they are working, are hands-on with their children. They even clean the house themselves. So when I am home I wash the dishes, bathe the kids, play with them, then put them to bed. It’s always a long day.

How do you juggle your career and parenthood?

Normally I don’t have a full- time nanny, only now because my husband is working outside of the country. The nanny only comes to the house when I have to go to work, but when I’m home she leaves. I take care of my kids even on weekends. They love the outdoors although many times we just stay indoors because we have a very nice village with lots of children they can play with. Sometimes I am the mommy of the village children. They come to my house and say, “Tita, do you have snacks?” It’s a big French commmunity that I am in so there would be like eight to 10 kids running all over. But it’s fun looking after these kids because I am close to their parents and my children would do the same. They would also go to other houses to have lunch or snacks, just the way we like it. On weekends I try to take them to the beach. My kids are most happy when they are in the beach— it’s where you rid them of their gadgets.

How about you? What were you like as a child?

I love the water. I’ve always been fascinated with mermaids. I think they’re mysterious and romantic. I am the youngest of four siblings and they said that I was a spoiled brat. Being the youngest had its perks because my siblings were a lot older than I was so I got to ask from everybody. I went to Saint Theresa’s where from the outside it may seem very strict but it’s not really. I really enjoyed school and I was into sports like softball, wakeboarding. I was swimming every day so I guess that also helped with discipline, being an athlete. Until I graduated, being an athlete helped me become more focused—you know, no pain, no gain. As an athlete in my childhood I went through a lot of pain physically and that made me realize that it’s okay to practice, it’s okay to sacrifice for something even greater. And I wish the same for my children with sports because it’s fun.

Let them kids go through the phase, is that it?

Yes, that kind of pain is good for most children. I am not a sheltering mom and I don’t baby them from the world. I am very realistic, and when I talk to my six-year-old over the phone, the people beside me would be surprised because I talk to her like an adult, no baby talk since they were little. Even when they are in a fight I let them fend for themselves, while I am there so I can protect her when needed. But more than that children have to learn.

I’ve known some who are really sheltered and it’s difficult for them when they go out into the real world because the real world is not all the time friendly. Same with my husband we have the same philosophy to let them stumble, if there’s some scratch that’s fine they will learn. One time my mother was hysterical because my daughter is too young to sleep in her own bed because once she fell out of it, but what can you do is instill the lesson and from the looks of it is she is fine by herself now.

What are your realizations about motherhood?

You’re never really ready for it (laughter). But as soon as you have children your life changes for the better. Being a mom made me realize who I really am and what I want in life and what is important to me. Everything that I do is for my children and I do get emotional. My life no longer belongs to me. I felt that when I had my first child. The life I have, the success I have is for them because I want my daughter to see that you can be a good mom at the same time be successful at work. I want my son to see the right way to treat a woman later on—that women have to be respected and taken care of at the same time. Me and my husband, we are very affectionate in front of our children, we hug and we kiss and it’s really normal for them. It’s all because I want them to learn what a healthy relationship is all about.

What’s the greatest lesson that your mother taught you about motherhood?

My mom sacrificed a lot for us siblings. We were not rich, but not poor also. And while my father was abroad all the time she didn’t work and she chose to take care of us like a single parent would. From the time I was born until I was in high school my father was away for work and that’s pretty long for four children. My mother didn’t have much ofa social life and that sort of made me sad that it was like that because she really looked out for us. She was always about family first. A disciplinarian she always gave us boundaries. And back then of course I didn’t appreciate it most especially when I was a teenager.

I was not allowed to go out with friends, and only in “safe” areas. Of course, I’d sneak out just like other teenagers. Now that I am all grown up I’ve
realized why my parents did that. It made me see that some things are really not important and for sure it would have been dangerous for me. I appreciate them now more than ever.

Will you turn out to be like your parents in terms of discipline?

I don’t know if I will be strict like my parents because my husband is French and they are not like that. It’s all about communicating and building trust. And you have to teach them while they’re young because when the time comes for them to venture out by themselves, I’d know that they’re well-equipped. There should be the element though it can be difficult as a mom, but with the French, at 16 you’re allowed to travel with your friends. At 16, I was not even allowed to go to an afternoon disco.

What’s your take on corporal punishment in the home?

I am not into it. With my daughter I never laid a hand on her but with the little boy I did. Not the massive kind of spanking though. I only did it once. Because sometimes with my little boy when he runs around you just can’t seem to control him unlike with my little girl na when you call her attention she really listens. So I only hold him and make him feel my presence and then he sorts of snaps out of it. I don’t want to spank children but sometimes, for certain children, I guess you just have to.

If you’re to give your mom a gift right now, what would it be?

She likes to travel because she didn’t really get to travel when she was young. As much as we can we let her travel and she has lived with me in Thailand. She has lived with my brother in the US and she loves it. And of course she loves to shop, those things that she wasn’t able to do when she was younger because she was always taking care of us.

What message do you like to give to your five-year-old self?

Believe in yourself. Believe it or not, I was a very shy child until I was in college. I was the type of student who’d know the answer but was
always hesitant to raise my hand. I didn’t participate too much because I felt that I wasn’t good enough. Hotel was farthest from my mind
because I was shy and I couldn’t imagine myself facing and talking to people all the time. Just living life and participating is good enough rather than missing out on things. I missed out on a lot of experiences when I was little because I was too shy, back then you could hardly hear my voice.

And the shy little girl turned out to be a power lady. Leading 400 people in Quest is something.

Back then I was not assertive. There was no confident bone in my body and in this industry being a lady working abroad, meeting nationalities with strong personalities, I was the lone Asian and I was the youngest. People really test you thus you have to assert yourself to get what needs to be achieved. Back then I couldn’t let my boss down because we were the only two ladies on board and she really pushed me. That
really helped me grow and two years down the line I was screaming right at them. So now I can assert myself without screaming or being violent or without raising my voice.

How do you de-stress?

With a massage, if there’s time. And playing with my kids. There’s a lot of cooking going on at home because we love to cook. My children love Thai food. Or we make pasta. We love crepe and our life is all about the beach, if not the pool.

How do you see life in the next couple of years?

There’s never really a plan to become filthy rich. That’s not our goal. We want to be happy, healthy and become strong as a family. Now my husband is working abroad, and that’s a struggle for us.  We are doing our best to organize things so we can be whole again. He has been away for six months now and it has been a hard especially for me during the first three months. It was just crazy. It was a challenge most especially with him because he misses the kids. Family is very important for us.

That’s hard—being away from your husband. My husband, being a chef, is very organized. I used to have big closets with some dresses I’ve never worn for two years. He taught me to be minimalistic, to have only the clothes that you really like and you actually wear. Even with friends, because you don’t have that much time, when you think about it and for you to enjoy life, you really need to focus on the things that matter. And what matters to me is my family and work which I really enjoy. I don’t engage too much on other things that are distracting me from what I really want to do.

The choice to become a parent is the choice to become one of the greatest spiritual teachers there is. What legacy would you leave to your kids?
In 2015, we decided to be based here in Cebu because I want my children to become Filipinos. Back then they were really not French, and not Filipinos, they were somewhere in-between. Like they were learning Buddhism ways as well as Muslim ways, which is really fine with me for them to learn so much. But I also want them to learn who they really are. The experience of being in a close family. I don’t know if we will stay long here in the Philippines because as hotel people we have to go around in different countries. Right now it’s good for the kids to know or speak in Bisaya, our culture, to do things as a Filipino. The values we have here are really very good. For now I am very happy and my husband wants to grow roots. So we just may stay a bit longer than we had planned.

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