Carrying a child in your womb for nine months and then giving birth forges a unique lifelong attachment between mother and offspring but nurturing children and being a good role model is no piece of cake, even more so if you’re going about it alone. The challenges of being a single parent are manifest but who’s to say one cannot do a good job flying solo.
ML Radeethep Devakula, daughter of MR Thepkamol, former diplomat and privy councillor, and his wife Khunying Kwanta, is a London School of Economics graduate and currently assistant VP for corporate communications at Thai Beverage. Prior to this, she held several finance-related jobs including at the Bank of Asia and Kasikorn Bank. As a single mum of three, she is something of a trooper, caring for daughters Kamonphorn Buranasiri, or Nook, Supipa Buranasiri, otherwise known as Mim, and son Vutichart Buranasiri, or Mapp.
Following her divorce in 2011, she has been a single parent for six years and despite having to work at the same time, it is a role she seems to excel at. In fact, even when she was younger and pregnant she was never one to shy away from her goals and the responsibilities they entailed, even if it meant managing several things simultaneously. “I had Nook when I was about 28 years old,” she says. “While I was pregnant with her, I was working in a bank and pursuing my master’s degree at Sasin at the same time.” She continued to juggle motherhood and a career just fine until, as she readily admits, the birth of her son Mapp. “Two kids were manageable but three required much more of my time as a mother,” she smiles. So in order to fully devote herself to her children, she decided to leave her job. It wasn’t until her two daughters were in their teens that she returned to work with Thai Beverage.
One of the biggest challenges as a parent, Mook says, is to not spoil her children while still being able to offer love and support. Although she could easily shower them with gifts and material possessions she is adamant that they learn to work, to save up and buy things for themselves. One of the most important values she constantly tries to instill in them is the concept of being independent and self-reliant. “I want them to learn to stand on their own two feet and not simply wait around for others to take care of them,” she says. “At the end of the day nothing is certain in life so you have to be able to survive on your own.” When it comes to education however, Mook imposes no restrictions, as long as learning is involved. “Whatever it is that they want to study, I will always support them,” she says. “I just want them to be happy. I truly believe that even if you pursue a career that doesn’t pay well, if you do what you love you will be rewarded.”
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Her eldest daughter Nook, who is now 19, is currently studying English and psychology at Georgetown University while 18-year-old Mim is about to begin a degree in health science at Boston University. Like most mothers out there, being apart from her kids is a perpetual worry for Mook. Thankfully, today there is LINE, Whatsapp and FaceTime, which allow her to be in touch with her brood every day when they are abroad.
Both girls are forever grateful for their mother. “She’s a real trooper mum,” says Nook. “She manages everything for our family and goes out to work every day. And with me being overseas, she has to also deal with a different time zone.”
“She is such a hip mum and extremely easy to talk to,” says Mim with a laugh. “She’s not just a strict mum, more like our best friend, someone we can talk to about anything. Not everyone can say that about their mothers.” Nook adds, “It’s just comforting when you are abroad. Whenever I am confronted with personal issues, which I am not comfortable sharing with my friends, I know I can always turn to my mother for advice and guidance.”
When recalling best childhood memories, kids often pick that thrilling moment when their parents took them to Disneyland for the first time. For Nook, the best memory with her mother was when she first moved to the United States to attend boarding school. “Even though she’s always busy with work, it meant the world to me that she dropped everything just to come and help me settle in,” she says with a smile. “She took me shopping to buy bed linen and other useful things and taught me how to do laundry. I remember it as if it were yesterday.” A lover of dogs, Mim’s favourite memory is of her mother surprising her with a puppy a few years ago.
So what does it mean to be a good mum? For the girls, it’s about finding a happy equilibrium between being a guardian and being a friend. “I think it’s important to know how to discipline your kids without risking losing them—setting rules and boundaries while still showing them love and friendship,” says Nook.
The trio certainly has a special bond, a balance between discipline, mutual respect and uncontrollable laughter, although Mook says her journey as a single mum has had its ups and downs. “I think the hardest thing about being a single mum is that I also work,” she says. “And being there for my children all of the time is not always possible. I couldn’t make it to Nook’s commencement ceremony at Georgetown because of an important meeting. It’s a sacrifice I have to make. But it’s important to work to set a good example for them.”
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A million books on parenting will never truly prepare you for the world of parenthood and Mook is one of the first to admit this. “I’ve read many books but nothing compares to learning as you go from real life experience,” she says. That said, Mook is fortunate to have had exemplary parents who, she says, were and still are the best mentors when it comes to raising kids. She has clearly done things right as all three of her children have turned out just fine. Nook has aspirations to become an English professor one day while Mim sees herself working for an NGO making a difference in the world. Mapp is still young at 12 years old but is already attending boarding school for the summer.
One thing Mook makes sure to remind her children of is their roots and heritage. “No matter where you grow up and no matter what kind of education you receive, you have to know Thai values. Whatever happens, when you look in the mirror you are Thai,” she says. “I made sure my youngest served as a monk for a month, which he did when he was 10 years old.”
What’s the best part of being a mum? “I’m in control,” says Mook with a loud laugh. “Seriously, of course there are difficulties and challenging times but having children is such a rewarding experience. It truly is a gift.”
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