This morning, my 16-month old little girl got restless while we were playing pretend picnic in her room. She started to whine, and was alternating between stepping on me and throwing her toys at me (!). In a moment of inspiration, we called Joy’s godma on FaceTime as a distraction.
She was at work. I was very apologetic. But once Joy saw her godma on the screen, she broke into a toothy grin. And then we also said Hi to another ‘Jiejie’ (means big sister in Chinese), and ‘Uncle’ at work. My little girl knew and interacted with every person she was shown at godma’s office.
You see, Joy’s godma is my colleague. And from the time she was a 3-month old infant, Joy has accompanied me to the office whenever I have to be there.
Some would think this is crazy, but I think it’s a crazy good arrangement.
I am one of the many staff at Focus who is on a Flexible Work Arrangement (a work-life initiative). As a part-time staff, I work 20 hours a week – the second half of every work day, and I work from home 2 out of 5 working days.
In the morning on such days, I would scoop her from her bed to tumble around in mine, and then we’ll have breakfast, after which I’ll give her a bubble bath while I wash up, and then we will play pretend-picnic-chop-fake-fruits-stack-boxes-and-swish-daddy’s-light-sabers. Or sometimes I would turn on the tv and sing and dance to her favourite Hi5 songs. These mornings often whizz by and before I know it, it’s time to get to work (at Focus).
I treasure all these moments which many have described as long-days, short-years.
When I first returned to the office after maternity leave, I brought my 3-month old baby to work as a regular arrangement. It was the best option my husband and I felt we had. Honestly, I was rather surprised at how accommodating my bosses were, and their willingness to try something new.
Bringing your baby to work requires creativity, commitment to making it work, and most of all, support and trust from your supervisor and colleagues.
It’s not always easy, and sometimes you’ll have to extend your working hours to make up for those times in between to feed/clean/change the baby. But I won’t regret being near and available to Joy when she was a newborn to care for her personally.
In fact, it was during those times that Joy bonded with many of my friends at work, and even gained a new godma! They have also (thankfully) taken a liking to Joy, and would drop by to play with her, for some moments of “stress relief”. We’ve also marked many milestones with our friends at work: from rolling over, to crawling, then cruising, and walking. Most significantly, we celebrated Joy’s first birthday at the office – her favourite place outside of home, where she finds many of her favourite people.
Now that Joy has grown older and become quite mobile, I have more help from my father, who comes over to take care of Joy on most days. I now take her to the office with me about once a week, where she remains a delight to many as she charms them with her growing vocabulary.
Being a new mum, there are many times when I would second-guess myself and even question decisions I’ve made. But I am very thankful for the people at work who come alongside in very practical ways to show me what it means when people say it takes a village to raise a child. Some have even come to babysit in my home, so that my husband and I can go out on dates! This little child who is blossoming and thriving has been so privileged to be under the loving care of many of my friends at the workplace. They have literally watched her grow up.
I know that this is a unique experience that I have, and some may not enjoy it as much as I do. But I definitely put this all down as very special memories which I am thrilled to tell Joy about when she grows older. For now, I hope to keep this ‘work-life harmony’ thing going.
And tonight I’m looking forward to having dinner with my friends when they come to play with Joy.
This year, Focus on the Family is a recipient of The Most Empowering Company for Mums award, one of our Head of Departments was awarded The Most Supportive Supervisor , and two staff received The Most Supportive Colleague award, given by NTUC Women’s Development Secretariat.
Jeannie is a part-time, first-time mum at Focus recently enjoying the extra sleep she’s getting ever since her 16-month toddler started sleeping through the night.