Tag Archives: Work-Life

Confessions of a WAHM (Part 2)

Earlier this week I shared my challenges, joys and struggles in my journey as a WAHM, and if that hasn’t deterred you from considering becoming a WAHM, there are some things I’d like to share with you as you contemplate your decision.

I haven’t figured out all the answers, but in the course of my journey I’ve learnt 9 things that I hope will make yours a little bit easier.

Get family support / external help
Help can never be enough. No mum is meant to be a supermum. Recognise that you’re just one person and that you want to be in this for the long haul (and not burn-out halfway).

Establish designated work spaces
Get organised and put a bit of thought and planning into your work spaces. Invest in the right tools for your trade, like a laptop or a particular software. If you work best when you’re out of the house, try to get help so you can spend some hours at a café or library.

Seek support and advice from mums who’ve been there, done that
There is something precious about learning from others who have travelled the path before you. There is wisdom to be found, not to mention friendship as well.

June and Work around kids’ routines
Plan to get major tasks done when the kids are at school, having their nap, or when help is at hand.

Be prepared for interruptions
Kids being kids, at times they just won’t take “no” for an answer. Sometimes it helps to give them a bit of attention, guide them to engage themselves in drawing, or playing with their siblings, and then go back to your task once they are happily busy.

Tip: Keep a stash of ready surprises in the storeroom as part of your weaponry if you need to whip something out for them in a jiffy. Bubbles, puzzles, or even an old box of toys will to the trick. If you’re really desperate, throw some ice into a tub and let them have some sensory playtime!

Be flexible
Be prepared to give and take where work is concerned, and recognise that you’re still a team player even though you see the team less often.

Prioritise and learn to say no
Recognise that you have a finite amount of time and energy to invest in both your work and family. When faced with new opportunities, ask yourself, is this in line with my long-term goals? Can I commit without putting unnecessary strain on myself? How will this impact what’s already on my plate?

Have a positive mindset
Look upon challenges as opportunities for creative problem-solving. 
There was once I felt guilty for not bringing the kids out to different places. Now I try to schedule small pockets of time for intentional bonding, through art, reading, exploring museums or running about in open spaces. I realised it’s not possible for me to be focused on them 24/7, so I start with 20-30 min of bonding time each day. This helps me to plan for meaningful activities, be it making a gift or designing a card, or encouraging my eldest to write/design a simple book.

Schedule regular me-time
As a WAHM, it’s easy to forget your own needs amid all the responsibilities you juggle. Taking time off to relax and do things that you enjoy is thus really an essential, and not just a nice-to-have. Having some me-time will help you to refresh and rejuvenate your tired soul, and give you renewed strength for the journey ahead.

I hope the tips above have given you practical insights into tackling the challenges that are part of the WAHM journey. If you have tips to share, do leave a comment below!

This guest post comes courtesy of June Yong, a writer-mum of three and creator of mamawearpapashirt.com. She shares grace-filled stories, lessons learnt, and ideas on how to live a simple and playful life with our families.

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Confessions of a WAHM (Part 1)

confessions of a wahm

Hi. I’m June, and I am a WAHM.

Most of you would know that that stands for work-at-home mum, but you probably have little clue about how we operate. My world can be summed up in two words:

Organised chaos.

Yes, that’s me, trying to run a household of mini cute ‘monsters’ – three of them, to be exact. Desperately straddling both work and family at the same time, with no clear divider line.

The fact that I can actually hold down a job while taking care of all three (not totally on my own, thank God) is a miracle in itself. Though I do have days when I feel like giving it all up…

Days when the baby (and two pre-schoolers) fight sleep…

Days when lunch gets burnt or someone’s fingers get run over by a toy truck…

Days when I need to take a couple of work calls, and everybody decides to shout and/or sing at the top of their voices. All at the same time…

Most days, I hardly have the time to run to the toilet, much less sit and type an email. Then I feel like a crazy juggler, with more balls up in the air than I can handle. So what’s left to do but to multi-task, drop a few less important things like doing groceries or searching for a lost piece of Lego, grab a coffee (somehow this never gets dropped) and tell myself that I’ll get better at this. Eventually.

Working late into the night has also become a part of my reality. How else would I find peace and quiet to sit and think and craft with words?

On a good night, I’ll be able to get some serious writing done. Press release – check. Q&A – check. All within three hours of sitting bent over my laptop, furiously tapping on its keyboard while praying fervently that baby sleeps well and no preschooler gets any nightmares.

At the end of some days, I head to bed, exhausted and wondering: Why did I choose to be a WAHM? Did I make the right decision?

There are pros and cons to every career move you make. A major struggle for me is in the area of achievement. I don’t feel like I’m progressing as much as I should. It’s also hard to draw the line between work and home.

Another struggle I face is spending time with the children. One reason I chose to be a WAHM is to have quality time with my kids – but I’ve realised that being physically present at home doesn’t equate to quality time.

There are times when I feel like a failure in both the domains of work and home … and on such  days, I eat lots of chocolate and offload my sorrows onto the poor unsuspecting husband!

On the flip side, there are moments that remind me what I’m doing this for. For instance, just being there when my children need me. To break up a fight, and on a good day, actually teach them something through the process. To encourage them when they fall or find it a struggle to accomplish a task. To try new things together, or just enjoy simple activities like crafting or visiting our favourite playgrounds.

The days when our children need us most are short. I’d imagine that not too long from now, I’ll be wondering where all the time had gone.

This is why I keep at it, even if it’s a struggle balancing both worlds.

Editor’s note: June will be sharing some secrets to make the WAHM journey that little bit easier (and to retain some sanity) on Saturday. Be sure to join us for Part 2!

This guest post comes courtesy of June Yong, a writer-mum of three and creator of mamawearpapashirt.com. She shares grace-filled stories, lessons learnt, and ideas on how to live a simple and playful life with our families.

Families in Singapore: Past, Present and Future

“We must remember to look back at our past achievements, our past struggles, to celebrate our present achievements for where we are…and then to look forward to the next 50 years – what kind of nation we want to create out of Singapore.”
– Communications and Information Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim,
Aug 2 at Kolam Ayer

Birthdays are an opportune time to reflect on years gone by, consider our progress, and look with hope to the future. When it comes to our nation Singapore, we often give thought to the condition of our economy, the political landscape or the educational sphere.

So what about family? Families are integral to our lives and fundamental to society; perhaps it is now the opportune time to stop and consider how we have done as a nation in the arena of family life.

Most Singaporeans value their families; a Family Values Survey by the National Family Council in 2010 revealed that 91% of those polled consider family as being most important. Many also feel that they have close-knit families and are able to turn to their family members in times of need, whether emotional or financial.[i]

This is in stark contrast to the recently released Statistics on Marriages and Divorces, which revealed a steady increase in divorces over the years. Separately, the Singapore Social Health Project 2013 showed that families are facing increasing stress, evidenced by the rising numbers of families approaching Family Service Centres for help.

The reality is that families are facing pressures from all around: demanding jobs eating into family time, over-reliance on gadgets replacing heart-to-heart conversations, shifting values on the permanence of marriage … the list goes on.

If we are to stand upon the old adage that “strong families build a strong society”, it is crucial for us to strengthen family ties even as Singapore continues to progress as a nation. While we may not be able to influence all families, we can certainly start working on our own by:

+ Telling our loved ones how much they mean to us
+ Spending quality time with our spouse and family members
+ Consistently demonstrating love to our family members
+ Being intentional about maintaining work-life harmony

Our hope is that when Singapore celebrates her Diamond Jubilee in 2025, she will still be a strong, if not stronger, nation built on healthy, thriving families.

Happy National Day, Singapore. We love you and are so proud to call you home.

[i] Taken from State of the Family Report 2009

Dealing with Busy Work

Don’t you have enough to do without feeling guilty about all the things you don’t get done?

With all the things we have to do these days, it’s easy to get bogged down in busywork, constantly working, yet never quite getting ahead of the curve. Even when we’re productive, we tend to feel bad about the things we didn’t do.

Instead of focusing on getting more done, why not determine to do fewer tasks well? Try to remember that the quantity of your work isn’t nearly as important as the quality of it. And don’t accept impossible deadlines. When a task is put before you, make sure you build in extra time to get it done. Most importantly, learn when you need to say no to a new project or deadline. Never allow anyone to add undue stress to an already over-stressed schedule.

Reframe the Singapore Dream: Restoring Thrift

I was wondering recently on a point raised by Focus on the Family Singapore, “Are today’s young adults, like myself more likely to be encumbered by unprecedented debt – an obvious discouragement to starting a family?” From my point of view, at this moment in time, it would seem that the source of that debt would be the house.

Many of us know the Singapore dream as owning one’s own home. Being in my final year of university, I’m just beginning to feel the weight of this “dream”. I’m surrounded by friends who are in the midst of applying for their first HDB flat. All around, I hear concerns regarding which kind of flat to opt for, ballot results, queue numbers, waiting times and not to mention, how one is going to pay for it. With so much in the way of even getting a place to live, it seems difficult to think beyond that to filling one’s home with family.

The push for couples to have more children then, just seem to be at odds with the current situation to me. On one hand, we’re pushed to marry earlier (Jones, 2012) AND have more children. On the other, there may not be a place for young couples to move into because of the housing shortage and resulting costs associated with having one’s own place.

Expenses & Work With the burden of expenses, many would definitely be concerned with career in order to be able to increase one’s own income. For those of my friends just starting out in the first year of work, they’re wondering how long they would have to work before being able to afford just the down payment for a flat (if they even managed to get one in the ballot).

Time & Age Factor in the time one has to wait before being able to move in, while saving up and the HDB buildings are being constructed, and a couple could be close to 30 years old! Hence, the problem of age and decreased fertility too (Heffner, 2004).

Work Hours & Time for Family Furthermore, after a number of internships, and experiencing the MOM recommended 42 hour-a-week office hours, I honestly do not understand how people are able to work and have the time to bring up their own families. Yet, with all the expenses a family would have, I do not see how one might be able to give up work either. I can understand why fertility and full-time employment don’t really go hand in hand (Ahn & Mira, 2000).

I sincerely applaud those parents who are able to juggle the two, as well as those who have given up career aspirations to spend more time with family and have managed to handle their finances.  At this point in my life, I really am not sure how they do it. As a 22-year-old student, I admit that I may still be ignorant and the above may sound like griping about money and working hours. But, these really are sincere concerns. My peers and I will be the next generation of families and this is the situation that we need to work with.

Yes, the government is working on easing these burdens through the building of more HDB flats, improving subsidies and encouraging employers to work with parents who are employees. However, changes take time. In the meantime, perhaps young people like my peers and I will just have to adapt. We may have to “Reframe the Singapore dream” and be prepared to be flexible with our living arrangements. Moving away from the notion of immediately owning one’s own home, couples might have to be open to adopting a culture of rent. Alternatively, if healthy relationships are in place, a couple might have to move in with in-laws for a period of time. And throughout all this, I guess the fact remains that one needs to learn to be thrifty. Many other couples before us have managed to have their own home while managing finances, work and family. With a good attitude in place, it seems possible to make a good life in Singapore.

References:

Ahn, N. & Pedro, M. (2000). A note on the changing relationship between fertility and female employment rates in developed countries. Journal of Population Economics, 15, 667-682.

Heffner, L. J. (2004). Advanced maternal age— how old is too old? New England Journal of Medicine, 359(19), 1927-1929.

Jones, G. (2012). Late marriage and low fertility in Singapore: the limits of policy. The Japanese Journal of Population, 10(1), 89-101

What Do Women Want?

I was having dinner with a few friends who were mothers and we were talking about our kids and work. One of them recently resigned from a high paying and high level marketing position in the private sector. She did this so she could focus and spend more time nurturing and teaching her four children. She shared with us that one of her female colleagues told her that she was still young and it was “such a waste” for her to stop work to look after children. That statement both irked me and amused me at the same time. How could it ever be a waste to be responsible to raise and nurture a helpless infant into a happy, healthy and valuable young adult? I feel that such a statement may reflect how parenting is valued in an economically driven society. Is making money and developing a career more valued than making children and building them up?

Ever since women entered the workforce, there has been a tug-of-war of sorts especially for working mothers. On one hand, we want to be involved, to contribute and have a sense of personal achievement in work, and yet feel the natural calling to nurture and spend time with our children. In culture, in society and in policies, it is the dichotomous nature of how women are defined – stay-home mother versus career mother – that shape employment and the way we work. Does it have to be one or the other? Why not both?

  • In a survey by Citi and LinkedIn early this year, 96% of the 520 professional women think that “having it all” – careers, financial stability and relationships – is attainable.
  • For the majority of women in the survey, success was defined by having a job they enjoy, where their work is valued. Only 17% of women stated that reaching the height of success in their field was a factor of “having it all.” For another 15%, success meant being their own boss.

What’s interesting here is that the majority defined success in job satisfaction and appreciation; not advancement. Gallup, known for its Q12 Employee Engagement Survey has also done extensive research to show the link between high employee engagement and high work performance. And high employee engagement has more to do with having personal development, a sense of purpose and appreciation.

Another research by sociologist Catherine Hakim from the London School of Economics highlights that there are three lifestyle preferences that women choose: home-centered, work-centered or adaptive. Her research points out that about 20% of women favor a home-centered life, 20% for a work-centered life, while the 60% majority of women prefer a life that combines career and family, i.e. adaptive. I’ve not done empirical research on this but based on what I hear from colleagues, ex-colleagues, husband’s colleagues and other peers and friends, I would say that this is true.

So what has all these got to do with the work-family ideals of women, the ideals of employers in having a high performing workforce, and the government’s hope to increase fertility rates?

Maybe employers and the government should take a leaf from my husband’s jest “listen to the wife, she’s always right.” Many government incentives favor the full-time working mother – working mother child relief, tax relief for working mothers who hire domestic helpers, higher childcare subsidies for working mothers. So what do women want? If the research mentioned above is anything to go by, then more incentives and policies should target and reach the majority of women who want a life that combines career and family rather than full-time working mothers, as well as incentivize employers to support flexible work arrangements.

Having the infrastructure and policies to support flexible work arrangements is important. But what truly makes it successful is trust and managing work performance by outcome and not by face time. In the Singapore context and culture, it might be a big paradigm shift as well as a learning curve for employers and individual managers to leverage on technology in managing staff remotely and by outcome. But the greatest mountain to overcome comes down to the value of having a culture of trust.

Focus on the Family Singapore was just awarded the Work-life Excellence Award 2012 and as a staff, I can truly testify that this organization understands and practices the value of meeting staff’s work-life needs. It’s one thing to have semblances of a pro-worklife employer by having fruits in office, implementing annual family day or even asking staff to go home on time or early on Fridays. But trust is really the deal breaker. Ernest Hemingway once said “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

The employer-employee relationship works both ways. That’s why I think the articulated culture here at Focus supports the commitment to work-life excellence – Trust Culture, Healthy Conflict, 100% Commitment, Accountability and Results. I’m the beneficiary of this trust and commitment from my leaders in the organization. I am one of the 60% of women who prefer a life that combines career and family and I can say that I’m “having it all.”

Are You Stressed?

We’re about to take a 30 second stress test. Are you ready?

Here it goes.

  1. Do you find yourself in a constant rush mode, always trying to catch up?
  2. Do you often arrive late to appointments?
  3. Do you find yourself losing things, or forgetting where you put your car keys?
  4. Do you put things away and then have trouble finding them later?
  5. Are your drawers full of clutter, and your closets in disarray?
  6. Do you snap at people when they get on your nerves?
  7. Do you often say to yourself, “As soon as things slow down, I’m taking a vacation?”

If you answered yes to more than a few of these questions, then chances are good you’re struggling with stress. And the solution is surprisingly simple.

Slow Down! 

Take a deep breath and learn to take life one minute at a time. Make a habit of doing everything more slowly. When you talk, eat or drive, take your time. Curl up in a chair and read a good book in the evenings. Slowing down will help you manage your stress. And the weekend is a good time to do just that.

Have a fun & rested time with your family this weekend! 🙂