Being a FTWM (Full Time Working Mum) is like holding 2 full time jobs. A career woman by the day and a mum-teacher-maid by night. It is not easy to handle the evening’s demands of child-rearing and house chores after a full day fatigue and stress at work. Many people think that after I go home, it’s just all play with my 3 adorable kids. But the truth is nothing like this since I do not have a domestic helper. However, being helperless, I have many opportunities to bring up my kids to be independent and not take things for granted. I believe any unfavourable situation has a potential to benefit from it.
Many people are curious about how I handle the household after work and still have time for blogging. When I told them about it, there are mixed reactions. Some praised me for being a supermum after hearing my schedule. Some offered suggestions to “improve” my situation. Some thought that because I have my parents-in-law to help out during the day so I must be “shaking legs” (means nothing to do) after I get home. Some were mortified when they heard that I am alone with 3 screaming kids on most nights because my hubby meets clients after their work. Then some of them have the same expression that tells it all: this mum’s “plight” is worse than theirs.
Some people might be put off at having more children for fear of sacrificing their freedom. Actually, there is really nothing so scary about having more kids and being helperless. You just have to have good planning and be positive. Of course there are days when I feel like crying, wishing I could just relax after I get back home and enjoy some peace and quietness. But, there are also days when I feel invincible after keeping the house neat and clean, supervising the kids’ piano and academic work and still have time to play with the kids happily. Especially, at the end of the day, the kids kiss me and whisper a “Thank you mummy!”, I feel everything is worth it.
Parents who do not have to do house chores may not necessary spend more time with their kids than me. And it doesn’t mean that if you have to do house chores on your own, you will have to spend lesser time with your children. It just takes some planning and lots of patience. There is no right or wrong on how people choose to spend their after work hours. Everyone has their own right to do what they like and how much time they want to spend with their kids or not. For me, I really enjoy being with my children. Although at times, they drive me crazy every 5 minutes and I have to sacrifice much of my own me-time, I still treasure each second of my precious evening time with them.
On a typical weekday, my day looks like this:
Morning – The alarm rings off at 540am. I wake up my girl at 550am and let her toss in the bed till 6am while I prepare breakfast for her. The breakfast is usually very simple like making cheese omelette, or hardboiling eggs the night before for egg mayo sandwich in the morning, or a pre-prepared nutrient pack smoothie. On some tired mornings, my girl is also fine with just bread and jam with a cup of milk or Milo. I am learning more recipes from other mums on easy-to-make breakfast to cut short my time. Then, I see her up the school bus before 630am and jog 2 rounds in the neighbourhood after that. Usually by the 2nd round, I will make sure I catch up with her school bus making its rounds in the neighbourhood for a chance to wave at her and make her smile. After that, it’s back to home and I have less than an hour to throw the clothes into the washing machine, boil water, do some blogging and prepare myself out of the house for work.
Evening – After I get back home from work, I will put down my things and kiss each of my 3 babes. My in laws cook for us on most days and I am thankful to them which otherwise, I have to revert to days when I woke up early and slept late to prepare ingredients for after work cooking. I eat dinner together with my 2 elder kids while my toddler is entertained by Baby TV as his “nanny”.
After dinner, I delegate the house chores to the 2 kids. Every night, they wash their own plates and cutlery, and put back their own clean clothes into the wardrobe. Then they choose one additional house chore to do: vacuum the floor, mop the floor or tidy up the living room littered with toys. This additional duty is only on weekdays for now. I then do the rest of the house chores. When the kids help out, I can finish up the basic house chores by 8pm.
We try to follow the time-table for after dinner activities. The elder kids are still in Lower Primary and hence have minimal homework. On days with homework, I supervise selectively. Once homework is done, we will follow the time-table for evening activities. There will be 3 nights of free play and 2 nights of academic work or reading books or piano practice. I believe in giving them as much free time for play as possible before the intensive academic years come and rob them of their childhood.
For free play, we do an activity like playing cards, board games, story-telling or anything the kids want to do that will not take up more than an hour. Activities that require more time will be reserved for the weekends. Not all days will see the perfect relax evening with the kids. For half the nights, I am always breaking up fights, disciplining back talk, teaching piano all with the screaming toddler walking and climbing all over the place. I need to have more than one pair of eyes to teach piano, or play a game and at the same time make sure the toddler is not picking up erasers off the ground to put in his mouth, or playing with the fishes in the tank.
Bedtime – Most school-going kids will be off to bed by 9pm. For us, we have such short 1.5 to 2 hours of the evening to spend together, the kids and I are only willing to turn out the lights at 1030pm. Now all 3 of them are fighting to have me stay in the room till they sleep. They love my presence and love to talk to me about their day events in the dark. If the hubby is not back by their sleep time, I will have to accompany my toddler to sleep before tucking in the elder kids. I know parenting books encourage kids to fall asleep on their own, but I am one who love to stay with the kids in the dark before seeing them fall asleep soundly. However, it can be trying at times when I have unfinished tasks to attend to. Once the kids sleep, I will spend 20min to reset the house in order and prepare for the next day school needs. Then, it’s me-time finally. That’s when I blog or read.
Tips on making things easier for me
It takes a godzilla of patience and energy to keep cool dealing with 3 young kids and not feeling the fatigue after work. After lots of trial and error, I made some changes to the house and myself that help me stay on top of things and have less stressful evenings.
1) Buy new storage furniture
My living hall is always littered with toys and storage boxes are all over the place which makes it very untidy. So, I bought an IKEA EXPEDIT TV Storage Rack. It has many compartments for me to keep toys neatly in IKEA matching storage boxes. I bought a beautiful Turquoise EXPEDIT 8 shelves rack to sort out different toys. The school bags go here too. Now my living hall is so much neater and easier to keep toys hidden. It is a breeze for me to mop the floor now. It makes me feel happier with a tidy common area. If you are thinking of what I did with my old TV rack, there are many options to clear bulky items, sell or donate old furniture. One good place to start is at usedfurnituresingapore.net.
2) Change the writing desk orientation
Previously, my kids do not have a proper designated place to do their homework. They do the homework all over the place, eg. on their beds, on the floor, on the dining table, on a foldable bed table. The toddler will tend to disturb them if their pencils and books are within his reach and it was extremely disruptive. I decided to change the orientation of our IKEA long work desk to be perpendicular to the wall so that the kids can do their homework on opposite sides. When they are doing their work, I could bring the toddler out and play with him in another room. A proper study area is very important. I realized a tad too late but better than never.
3) Get the kids to do house work
If you have been following my blog, you will know that I like to delegate house chores to them. I train them to do morning routine daily without my supervision. I let them know that each of us has a responsibility to keep the house clean and tidy and hence they have to help out on house chores. I often tell them if they help out, I will have more free time to spend the night with them. This helps me a lot especially when the hubby is not around.
4) Plan out things that help you to save time
Every night, I have to seek their wallet/purse and water bottles to replenish contents. I have to remind them whether they have school notes and forms for me to sign. I decided that they shall be responsible for all of these and bought 2 trays to put on my new IKEA shelf. One tray for the school notes and one tray for the water bottles and wallets. This small idea help put the responsibility in them and make it easier for me.
I cannot emphasize how useful a time-table is in getting the kids to do things independently. What happen to the kids during the hours that I am at work? I cannot place the responsibility on my parents-in-law to supervise the kids to do the things I want them to do. Besides, they will not follow instructions other than mine. So, I sit down with each of them to plan out a time-table. I check on them after I return home. I will know if they follow through the time-table or not. I set rules on no watching TV for weekdays and get my parents-in-law to let me know if they flout the rules. You will be surprised, with a reasonable time-table, kids will follow it.
What an important ingredient to keeping sane and have a happy home! On days that I have enough sleep, I am more patient with the kids and am able to handle tantrums efficiently. Similarly for the kids, if they have enough sleep, they will tend to have lesser meltdown moments and squabbles.
This is a blog train hosted by Kids R Simple (that’s me!) on “A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM“. Read about how the other 20 FTWMs handle their kids and household everyday from 1 June to 21 June. The aim is to give other working mums motivation, ideas and support to deal with the everyday demands of juggling work and family while keeping sane. We will be happy to hear your story, tips and even an encouraging word will make our day! Share your thoughts in the comments!
Tomorrow, Mrs Kam from The Kam Family will be sharing her routine:
Mrs Kam is a FTWM to 2 pre-schoolers, 6 and 4.5 years old. From the moment she fetches the children from the childcare centre at 6pm, the Supermum costume is donned on her and she would be fully occupied with the motherly and wifey duties till late at night. She copes well with all the house chores and taking care of the children on her own without any help. Find out how the Supermum does it 🙂