Portraits of Strength: Sharon Tan

Portraits of Strength: Sharon Tan - Hegen

In honour of International Women’s Day, we are featuring ten Hegen mums who have found strength in spite of the odds, adversity and loss. This week, we have a mother who never gave up on love.

At first glance, you would not think that this youthful looking lady is a Mum of three adult children, what more a Grandmother (and caregiver!) to two tiny sprogs!

The Hegen team was especially touched by her story. Having been divorced twice and thrice married (now to a wheelchair-bound Paralympian!) Sharon inspires us by her courage to steadfastly believe in love and her utmost devotion to her family.


Hegen: You have a very interesting blended family unit! Can you share how all of you became connected as a family?

I was just 19 years old when I had my first marriage. It only lasted 5 years. We had had two children together; a girl, Sherry and a boy, Shawn. They’re both grown up now – aged 28 and 26 - with kids of their own! 

I got divorced from my first husband due to domestic violence and his many affairs. My second marriage happened was when I was 25. He was also a divorcee who already had a daughter, Beverly - three years older than Sherry. The marriage eventually broke down because of problems between myself and my then Mum-in-law. My ex-husband had some challenges too, parenting my biological children. All these surfaced in our second year of marriage, but we carried on and only filed for divorce 10 years later.

So my current marriage is my third one. My husband and I take care of my grandchildren and he gets along with my stepdaughter too. So we’re all very happy as a family.


Hegen: In what ways did your two divorces affect you?

Both divorces affected me deeply, both emotionally and physically. I found it very hard to put any trust in anyone. I had totally lost faith in relationships after two failed marriage and it didn’t help that the guys I dated casually after were mostly jerks!

I was even unsure of myself at times; whether I was doing enough for my children. My son did mention that there were times when it was tough for him not to have a father figure growing up.

But my kids were actually very happy when I got divorced from my first husband as it meant a happier living environment for them when they were growing up. I made sure to put them first and give them the happiest childhood. They’ve shared with me that the life and support I provided them was even better than what their friends received, even those from a “complete” family with both parents together.


Hegen: Those must have been some tough times, especially for someone so young. What gave you support when you were trying hard to be strong for your children?

My friends and my faith have been my biggest support system all these years. Good friends have somehow always been there for me, emotionally, physically and even financially. My faith in Jesus Christ keeps me from feeling helpless even though I might feel alone sometimes.


Hegen: You were third-time lucky and found the space to accept love again back into your life. Kudos to you for this! How did your third relationship come about?

I was not expecting or even looking to meet a new partner and thought I was done with romance. 

I was making very good money as a postnatal masseur and financially independent. After my second marriage, I experienced an early menopause and totally had no sex drive anyway; so maybe that’s why I was happy to be to be single and enjoyed my time alone!

I had told myself, “all men cannot be trusted” and even chose not to go out to meet people to prevent any relationship opportunity. 

But I guess my heart was still open and I had a “secret wish-list” for a perfect guy!

The person I had in mind would be youthful, handsome, very sporty (but not the kind who would force me to join his workouts!) financially stable and generous, love all my children (including my stepdaughter!) and my dogs, doesn't mind my two failed marriages, no Mummy issues, bilingual, humorous, soft spoken but very manly, accepts and embraces all my flaws. He would stop all communication with all his exes, be open with email and social media password (because he has nothing to hide!) and puts me as his number one person, then I wouldn’t mind to commit to marriage again.

Well, guess what? He did exist!

I met Eric on an online dating app. I remember seeing this man with a beautiful, confident smile on his face although he was sitting on a wheelchair. After getting to know him, we realised that we had lots in common especially in terms of sharing the same faith and having similar values in life. Eventually, we decided that we wanted to be together, so here we are.


Hegen: You're not just a mom but a Granny too! What's a typical day like for you? 

I’m not just a Granny of two but also babysitting a grandniece of mine every day, while caring for my wheelchair-bound husband who is training to be a Paralympian! Often it is really very tiring but so satisfying at the same time as I love being needed by my family. Caring for all of them is what brings me joy.

This is how I have always kept myself motivated in the past. All the times I’ve ever thought of giving up, what made me pull through was for the sake of my family.


Hegen: You mentioned that you were a postpartum masseur? Do you still work in this area?

I really enjoyed my job a postnatal masseur; it was very fulfilling. I had a real talent for it and did very well! Apart from general relief of post-pregnancy aches and pains, my massage treatments managed to help a lot of clients with weight loss and boosting breast milk supply. Unfortunately I've had to retire last year due to an injury.


Hegen: Tell us about how you view Motherhood, with all the experiences that you've had to journey through?

To me, being a mother is a commitment. I think of myself as not just a Mum to my biological children but also to my step-daughter and I take the role seriously. Above all, I believe in love and discipline in both words and actions. Having open communication with your kids is also key.


Hegen: What would you say to divorced women and mothers, as well as those who are supporting family members with disabilities?

Do your best, and don't be ashamed of you ever feeling helpless at times. You’re bound to be tired, both physically and emotionally. No matter how much you love the person you’re caring for, you may still burn out as a caregiver because you’re only human. So if this happens, don’t feel bad to ask for help, and find some support for yourself too.