10 Classic Phrases Mothers In Singapore Use When Nagging Us And What They Actually Mean

Phrases mothers in Singapore use when nagging us

We may revere fictional superheroes like the Avengers – but the truth is, our favourite superheroes are none other than our own mothers. Whether we need help finding a lost object, or just need a shoulder to lean on, you know they’re always there for you.

Growing up, we’re more than familiar with our mother’s nagging. While it can be frustrating, we know deep down it’s their form of love to us. We’ve sussed out 10 classic phrases that our moms have used, and what they actually mean when they say that to us.

1. “Why never finish your food? People in Africa are starving, you know?”

What she actually means: “Don’t waste food, eat more because I care about you.”

No matter how much we can eat, we’ve all faced that inevitable moment where we simply cannot finish our food. Cue the displeased expression of our mothers, along with the oh-so-classic “think of the children in Africa.

Although our bellies would have been uncomfortably stuffed at that point, we know what they truly mean. They’ve spent so much time whipping up those dishes, so to see it go to waste can be a sad sight.

But of course, the biggest reason they’re saying this is because they just want you to eat more. 

2. “So old already, still need me to do everything for you!”

What she actually means: “How will you take care of yourself when I’m not around?”

Mothers know best – that much is true. They’re always the first person we turn to whenever we need help  – even if it means they’ll whip out the “so old already still need me to do everything for you” card.

As we’re much older now, we’re more than capable of standing on our own two feet. Show your mother that you’re perfectly capable of fending for yourself, and she’ll definitely have a little more peace of mind at night.

3. “Why always go out so late? You think this is a hotel is it?”

What she actually means: “I miss you, you should be home more often.” 

Before the Circuit Breaker measures were enforced, staying out for extended periods at a time was a norm. And when we’d finally trudge home, we’d meet the disapproving glares of our mothers. “Why always stay out so late?” they’d bite out. “This house is your hotel is it?

Hearing that never fails to make us feel a teensy bit guilty for staying out so much. Although sarcastic, it’s akin to a plea to stay at home more often – one that screams “I miss you”.

4. “Make sure you behave or else the police will catch you.”

Image credit: @singaporepoliceforce

What she actually means: “I want you to be the best person you can be.”

Threats are an everyday part of an Asian kid’s life in our mothers’ bid to shape us into a person everyone can be proud of. Amidst the pool of classic threats, one particular one stands out, and that’s the ever-iconic “or else the police will catch you.

As kids, hearing that may have scared us pantsless. But looking back, that imminent fear of being arrested over our misbehaviour was highly effective in disciplining us – a bid by our mothers to help us mature and grow into better people.

5. “You think I’m your maid is it?”

Image credit: Sarah Brown 

What she actually means: “I wish you’d be more independent.”

Whether it’s because we’re busy or just plain lazy, we’d hear our mothers yell “you think I’m your maid is it?” whenever we ask them for help to do something. 

More than just being a sharp reprimand, those words belie a hint of concern for our well-being. We won’t be living with them forever, and at some point, they just want us to be independent people able to care for their own families.

6. “X’s son bought her a phone, why don’t you buy me anything?”

What she actually means: “I wish you’d appreciate me more.”

We hear this whenever news of our cousin or friend buying gifts for their parents reach our mothers’ ears. “They so good leh,” they’d sigh. “Why don’t you buy me anything?

We know what this means – they just want us to appreciate them more. While this doesn’t mean they want us splurging on expensive clothes or gadgets for them, it’s a silent request for us to show them more love for all the effort they’ve put into making sure we’re raised right.

7. “If Y’s mother is so good, then just ask her to be your mother.”

What she actually means: “I’m doing the best I can as your mother.”

If we were the ones to hit our mothers with the “XYZ’s mum just bought them a Nintendo Switch eh!” instead, all you’ll get is a dismissive “If their mother’s so good, then just ask her to be your mother lah in reply.

Try to spare her feelings by avoiding the comparison to other mothers. After all, she’s already doing her best as your mother.

8. “Why never wash your plate? Ask you how many times already?”

A mother’s worst nightmare
Image credit: @jigglypuffsdailylife

What she actually means: “I wish you’d help me out around the house more.”

Even with constant reminders from our mothers, we still forget to do our chores. After the umpteenth time, that’s when they’ll hit you with the “ask you how many times, you still forget?” line.

And of course, that’s on us. From folding the clothes to cooking our meals, our mothers tend to shoulder most of the household chores, which we take for granted. As they’re getting older, it’s time we get off our butts and help them out a little more.

9. “You sick ah? Must be because you never drink water.”

What she actually means: “I wish you’d start keeping healthier habits.”

Long before the #stayhydrated hashtags were a thing, our reminders to continuously drink up came from our mothers. And when we fall sick, a lack of proper hydration is the first thing they attribute your sickness to. 

That may not necessarily be that reason why you’re sick, but take it as their disguised way of telling you to take better care of yourself.

10. “You’re not allowed to date until you’re 21.”

What she actually means: “I want you to be mature enough to choose the right person.”

As kids, one of the biggest things we’re curious about is love. But ask your mother about this, and they’ll tell you straight up that you can’t have a significant other until you’re 21 or in university.

It’s a silly rule that’s not strictly enforced, but we know their hearts are in the right place. After all, they’ve been there, done that. The last thing they want is for us to go through the woes of young love that they’ve experienced at our age – and the only way to do so is to ensure we’re mature enough to discern the bad eggs from the good when we’re much older.

Common phrases mothers in Singapore use when they’re nagging

We know our mothers love us, and growing up, we’re well aware that their love for us manifests in the way they nag at us. As these 10 classic phrases show, their nagging is a front for how much they truly care and want the best for us.

These days, mothers shoulder even more responsibility to take care of the family. Juggling between working from home and taking care of the kids is no easy feat, and in their bid to do so, they often overlook themselves – and their health – to ensure that everyone is looked after.

We get it – a mother’s nagging is just their way of loving us. While breaking old habits takes time, perhaps it’s time for us to take care of them for a change. And with Mother’s Day just around the corner, we want to make sure our appreciation for them is made extra apparent. 


Just like how our mothers have been looking after us, Difflam has also been providing care for us with products that keep the sore throats at bay. They’re readily available in pharmacies like Guardian, Unity, and Watsons, which you can purchase via online delivery.

Image credit: Difflam Singapore 

Taking care of our mothers’ health is always a great way to show your love this Mother’s Day. For more information on Difflam, be sure to drop a follow on Difflam’s Facebook page.

Follow Difflam’s Facebook page here

This post was brought to you by Difflam.
Cover image credit: TheSmartLocal

Farzana Fattah

Recent Posts

A Studio Ghibli Exhibition Is Coming To ArtScience Museum In October, Here’s How To Get Tickets

Heads up Totoro fans, Studio Ghibli is coming to the ArtScience Musuem this October with…

July 24, 2024

You Can Play Badminton In The Dark With Fluorescent Equipment On A Futuristic Court In KL

The hall accommodates up to 8 pax, so jio your top 7 badminton kakis along.

July 24, 2024

Istana Open House Is Happening This Sunday With Food Stalls, Guided Tours & Performances

Head here this weekend to get the entire fam excited for the upcoming National Day.

July 24, 2024

15 Unique Wedding Venues In Singapore If Having A Regular Banquet Isn’t On Your Bingo Card

Spoil-market wedding venues that will be the envy of all your bride-to-be friends.

July 23, 2024

This Refreshed Lounge In Changi Airport Has Famous Local Fare & Luxe Amenities To Indulge In

Don't need to brave the queues at Boon Tong Kee to get a taste of…

July 23, 2024

12 Most Memorable NDP Moments That Makes Us So Uniquely Singaporean

#9 was the talk of the town when it happened.

July 23, 2024