IT is the end of another busy workweek and Raja Teh Maimunah Raja Abdul Aziz, the chief executive officer of Hong Leong Islamic Bank, has kindly obliged to an interview with StarBizWeek to talk about her personal life.
Several weeks ago, she was panelist at the Asian Institute of Finance roundtable talk, where she addressed very eloquently the necessity for women corporate leaders to “stay feminine” as they fuse their roles as career women, wives and mothers.
“I can’t remember the last time I went for a facial or spa,” Raja Teh says in this conversation. “You cut out luxuries like that to make time for the people who matter, like family.”
Although she admits that there have been people who were critical of her lack of time for personal pursuits, you can tell that those comments don’t ruffle her.
When you have a child in the midst of a busy career, you simply work around it, she says, adding that she never pondered it the way the “younger generation tends to”.
“I just don’t want to look back and regret,” she says.
To maximise family time, she schedules her three daughters’ extra-curricular activities only on weekdays to keep the weekends free for retreats.
Hiking and rock-climbing are regular Sunday affairs.
When hiking, it’s usually a trail that ends at a waterfall, where the family can picnic after tiring, several-hour hikes.
The Berembun Forest Reserve in Negri Sembilan, Lata Tampit Waterfall at Janda Baik, Sungai Pisang in Gombak and Ulu Perdik at Hulu Langat are among their favourite excursions.
Raja Teh usually invites another family to double up the enjoyment for the children.
There’s the downhill journey to think about so she has to challenge her children without making the experience seem like that of a military camp.
Not that that would faze 17-year-old Nadia, who’s ridden horses since three, Natania, 10, a brilliant rockclimber, and 7-year-old Natasya, who started hiking at two.
Like their parents, the girls have been adept at outdoor sports since young.
“Outdoor sports are character building, they push you to try new things,” says Raja Teh, who enjoyed plenty of outdoor recreation during her schooling years in England.
These days, she goes horse riding and diving.
At one point, she dived 60 times a year.
Last year, the family went on a five-hour hike in Laos where they had to climb via ferrata to the top.
Then six-year-old Natasya had participated, her little frame scaling the precipices with her family.
They had a good laugh when the little girl, exhausted when she reached the top announced to her mother: “I think I’m now ready to be the boss of Louis Vuitton!”
Raja Teh had explained to her the intricacies and pressures of a career in the corporates, and it was amusing that her child associated her strenuous climb to that.
On another occasion, Natasya returned from school with an essay she had written about family holidays.
“When we read it, we were so proud that she remembered those experiences and could articulate them well. Like the time our girls told us that they were proud to climb Bukit Indah in Taman Negara, it made us feel like we had done something right,” says Raja Teh. “We know that our girls take pride in our outdoor experiences together as a family.”
There was the time where they stayed at a “Mahut” training camp in Chieng Mai, Thailand, which Raja Teh and her husband wanted to add to their eye-opening experiences together as a family.
All of this also means that tea outings with the other ladies are rare, however, there’s no cause for her to lament as it’s all a matter of adjustment.
“You can’t feel bitter about having to stay home when your husband’s out at a game of golf. Raising my children is not a chore. In fact, it’s the very thing that helps me unwind.
Early last month, they spent an enjoyable weekend in Raub, Pahang, where they threw themselves into a rock pool and whizzed through the air on the flying fox.
“And it’s rewarding when, after a brilliant weekend together like that, my children anticipate our next family outing,” Raja Teh says.
“We want that diversity in life.”
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