30-year-old single mum with 3 kids: I quit my job as a nurse to be a home baker & regret nothing

I got pregnant at 17, but I never gave up on my own life plan.

Mothership | October 23, 2021, 10:24 AM

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PERSPECTIVE: "I've thought about this so many times, and I have to say, I have no regrets. "

Pelyn Tan became pregnant with her eldest son when she was only 17 years old. With the support of her family and friends, she went on to further her studies and become a nurse, even through two more pregnancies and a divorce.

After nine years working as a nurse, Tan — who is now 30 years old — left her career to run her very own home-based business selling baked goods on her Instagram @pelynoobakes.

The single mother of three shares about how doing so has given her precious time to spend with her children — aged 12, eight, and six — and how despite all the ups and downs she has faced, she has no regrets for her life. 

By Pelyn Tan, as told to Denise Tan

When I had my first child, I was one month to 18 years old. It wasn't planned. When I found out I was pregnant, I was very, very, very lost. My mind was blank.

I had just graduated from O-Levels. I didn't dare to tell my parents at first, so I went to tell my private school teacher. She helped me arrange for a consultation with a gynaecologist.

Telling my parents

We revealed it first to my mum, because I thought that she would take it better. We brought counsellors along, and my then-boyfriend (and future ex-husband) and I went over. When I reached home, I told her, "Mum, can you come in? I have something to tell you."

She didn't even think about it. She just said, "What? You pregnant ah?" Then I was like, "Oh my god. How did she know?!" I think it's just a mother's instinct.

Then after that, she went crazy. She started scolding everybody, including my boyfriend, and was very hysterical. But she accepted it in the end.

My dad was the total opposite of my mom, which was very comforting.

There was a day that my mum messaged me to come into the room and apologise to my dad. She actually asked me to kneel down and say sorry to my dad. And I was like, "No, I'm not gonna do that!"

When I went into the room and apologised to my dad, I started crying.

My dad asked me over and asked me to hug him. He said, "What's done is already done. We will have to plan what's the next step and all."

From then on, we just planned for the kid's arrival. My parents were very supportive, so we started thinking about the future: my boyfriend and I were going to get married after the kid was born. I wasn't 18 yet, so I couldn't get married earlier than that.

And then, for welcoming the kid, it wasn’t really that much of an issue because I have four other siblings, so kids have always been very welcomed at home.

Photo via Instagram / pelynt.

Being pregnant as a student

I was four months pregnant when I got accepted into the nursing course in Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP). I was very blessed because usually they don't accept pregnant students, but my estimated due date (EDD) fell during the vacation period so they decided to let me join the intake that year.

While I was pregnant and studying in NYP with a big tummy, everyone in the nursing programme was quite motherly so they were quite accepting of pregnancy.

But when I walked around school and people saw me with a big tummy, they gave me the 'eye'.

There was once — I remember very clearly until today — these few kids, they stared at me from afar with my tummy. Then as I walked past them, they turned around and continued staring eh!

But my mind was very focused on studying already, like, I'm here to get my certificates and pass my exams. The stigma really didn't matter much to me.

Didn't want to see having kids as an excuse

When I first held my firstborn in my arms, all attention suddenly shifted to him. It's like, he's my everything. I'm gonna ride or die for him, you know, that kind of thing?

In year two, I took up a bond with KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH).

I felt that I needed that money and that assurance that I would immediately have a job right after, because I was taking care of my own kid. I didn't want to take money from my parents anymore.

I graduated and then I started working KKH as a scrub nurse. And then I had my number two and took my degree, all while working.

Photo via Instagram / pelynt.

And I was working shift leh, back then! And doing assignments. Don't ask me how I did it — I don't know.

After everything finished, I pursued my Advanced Diploma in perioperative nursing — more of like the surgical side.

There was always studying, along with kids and work. I didn't really give myself a chance to see having kids as an excuse to push back whatever my life plan was supposed to be, even though I had kids early.

So it was more of, like, whatever my friends' paths are, I'm going to do the same.

And the kids were really a very big motivation for me. I didn't give myself a chance to like think, "It's okay. If you fail, then you retake." No, no such thing.

Photos via Instagram / pelynt.

Raising three kids as a single mother

Shortly after I had my third child, I went through my divorce.

It's very tough for me to parent my kids, in terms of me being the father and the mother. This is something which I still cannot grasp. It's so hard to understand my kids, especially my boys, because I'm not a boy. So I don't know how they function or how they think.

This is somewhere where I always feel that I'm really not good enough, you know? It's just very hard to be the angel and the devil at the same time. It's just not easy.

A part of being a single mother is that I have to pick up calls from schools while I'm working, and I have to go MIA from work because my kids are suddenly sick.

For single mums, there are so many responsibilities in our lives.

Taking on baking as a full-time job

I started baking in October 2019. Back then, I just decided to sell my bakes because a lot of my friends enjoyed my honey cornflakes.

They really encouraged me, like, "Aiya, just try ah, just sell!" Back then, I didn't think of it in a larger scheme of things, but it kind of bloomed along the way, before Chinese New Year 2020.

Photo via Instagram / pelynt.

The most I baked was like 100 of these in two days. It was quite a substantial amount.

When I was working as a nurse, I had to work nine-to-five. And then after that I had to squeeze in whatever time I could for a workout. And by the time I went home, I baked. And then I had to reply customers.

By the time my day ended, it was like 2am or 3am, and I had to wake up at 6am.

The reason why I'm baking full-time from home is because I want to spend more time with my children. That's one of the reasons why I left the healthcare industry. When I worked night shift, there was only my helper at home with my children.

This work-life balance thing is very important. It's more flexible now because I no longer work in a nine-to-five job. I want to spend more time with my children, and now I get to see them very often.

As a single mother, you do everything yourself. So you cannot miss any moment of your kids growing up. You see, once it's gone, it's gone. And I don't want to look back and feel, "Why did I neglect my children?"

Grateful for my support system

I'm grateful for my family and my friends, and everyone around me who has been supporting me throughout everything — not just in my baking, but checking in on me or accompanying me. Without them, I don't know who I would be today.

My parents always tell me that they're very proud of me.

I'd like to thank them and tell them that I'm really thankful for their support and being with me through my darkest days, and when I thought: "I cannot make it already."

And for supporting me throughout my initial parenthood plus studying and working. It wouldn't be possible without them, really.

Photo via Instagram / pelynt.

Photo via Instagram / pelynt.

My friends have been perfect, every single one of them. They are just so freaking supportive. I would say that my friends were the ones who really helped me get through my hardest period. They are always there for me.

I met my best friend shortly after I was divorced. She's also a single mother, but she's a single mother of two. When I was at my lowest, I would spend many nights with her. Like, my kids would go to bed, and then I'd go to her house and stay over.

Her presence was just really so important. Because when you're single or alone, the emptiness you feel is just very overwhelming. But when there's a person beside you, even if they're not talking to you, it's really very comforting.

Plus, she understands whatever I'm going through.  All the burdens you have are sometimes reduced by half just by telling someone about it.

Photo via Instagram / pelynt.

Good or bad times — we are always together. And that has really helped me a lot, even until today. Like whenever I need to find someone to confide in, she's always there.

And our kids are now best friends! So sweet.

I wouldn't change anything

I've thought about this so many times, and I have to say, I have no regrets. Definitely, I missed out like the whole bulk of my youth, but if I were to look back, I wouldn't think that I would want to change it.

Because everything that I've gone through and been through has moulded me into who I am today. If I were to not have kids, I don't think I would be who I am today. Probably I would be outside now, partying still, you know?

My children have taught me responsibility. Patience. Love. It's very amazing how you love your kids and you see how they love you back. It's just, like, out of the world. The feeling is just great.

Studying along the way — there's definitely no regrets because I've achieved so much.

I want to say that marriage is my worst regret, but I cannot. Because without my marriage, I wouldn't have my kids.

If I were to have a choice and turn back time, I would still have my kids, but I don't think I would want to get married. Because I feel that we were too young. And when couples are very young, they are not mature yet.

You may not picture yourself with the same person 10 or 20 years down the road, but having a kid — you have no choice but to commit.

But then again, in Singapore it's very hard to have a family if you don't get married. There are many perks that you don't get to enjoy.

Looking toward the future

Have I thought about giving up before? All the time, but I cannot.

I have too many responsibilities on my plate, such that giving up is no longer an option for me. You know, I always think, if I were to be gone, then what's going to happen to my kids?

I am proud of myself. I think that I've come a really, really long way from zero to where I am right now. From having kids to studying, working, and then becoming a home-baker.

It's really a journey. I wouldn't have imagined myself to be where I am today. It just happened, and after that, it grew and grew and grew.

The business is like my baby, it's everything to me at this moment, because it's like my bread and butter as well. And it's something that I started from nothing, so it's really one of the biggest accomplishments besides having three children.


Obviously my dream is to have a bakery.

But I don't think I'm at that level yet, because of the commitment. Maybe when my kids are grown up and when I'm ready mentally. Because there's a lot of stress when you open a business outside, you know? All the rent and everything else — it's just stressful.

All these dreams are definitely there, but I'm not sure when the right time is.

But I mean, if you don't take the risk, then you will never know, right? So yeah, probably in the future.

For now, I'm just waiting for my eldest son to get through his PSLE period. It's just baby steps. My life has been baby steps all the way.

My hopes and dreams for my kids: Firstly, character is very important to me. So even if they cannot study or have no interest in studying, they have to grow up to be good people. And healthy. Whatever my kids like, I will support.

If they want to be able to be a baker, I'll be very happy. Extra hands in the kitchen!

Watch our interview with Tan here:

Top photos via Instagram / pelynt. Some quotes have been edited for clarity.

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