A working mum’s woes

I had started my new job in October this year.
I got accepted in a totally new arena and was never so happy in my whole career life to finally do something I like. I was even mentally prepared to do my best and work late because I am determined to excel in my work.

Then work started, and all my predictions came true.

It is a challenging job. It is a work late job. I work more than 10 hours most days, sometimes 12 hours. I resist bringing work home so far. And work began to eat into my time with my kids and family. When I said I was determined to put in effort and time, I really did. I employed a domestic helper (finally!) so that I can concentrate on spending time with my children after I get home from work and have the sanity to handle the pressure at work.

With lesser time with the family and great work stress, I find myself getting tired easily and lesser patience with the children who yearn ever more attention from me. I feel my guilt surfacing almost everyday whenever I lose my cool, and make the kids upset. Such a situation leaves me a total wreck and more guilty and the vicious cycle repeats. There are a few times a thought of regret leaving my cushion job (not high pay though) haunts me and that made me feel worse. Maybe a woman is suited to stay at home, or otherwise not be too career focused. My girl starts to ask me why I had to change my job. The feeling hurts.

This morning, my baby wanted me to sit beside him while he ate his puffs. He knew I was about to leave for work and insisted that I stayed with him longer. I was running late but I obliged and stayed with him for another 10 seconds, what seemed like 10 minutes. Then, I stood up, kissed him and told him Mummy had to leave for work. He then sat still, eyes glued to the Baby TV which I had switched on for him on purpose, and did not turn around to see me leave. Just before I left the house, I stood at the door telling him all the sweet nothings about how much I love him and saying goodbye to a back facing baby. All this while, he did not turn around. After a few seconds later when I was walking towards the lift, I heard him let out a loud wail and started crying “Papa! Papa! Papa!” to his sleeping dad. My heart flew to him literally but I stood rooted to the ground. I knew if I had gone back to him, it would be worse for him and me to experience the separation twice.

I felt so cruel to leave for work when my role as a mummy should be to be with my baby all the time when he needs me. I think mothers like me should not work.

Human beings are like this: when they feel they are not spending enough time with their loved ones, they start to compensate in other means like showering with material gifts hoping to soothe their guilt. I find myself spending more to compensate the lesser time spent with the children.

The other day, I bought a Lego Chima which cost $75 without much thought, for my son. I almost never buy such expensive toys for the kids ever. So, when Kel asked me what was the occasion that I was buying the Lego toys for the kids, I could not really answer.

The time when I started my new job, was almost the same time that my kids were having examinations. My son, in P1, came home with flying colours partly because P1 is relatively easy to ace since what they learnt in school are mainly revisions from pre-schools. But my girl’s results fell. She was upset even though she did not mention much. I know she was and still is. She was concerned on what I thought of it. I did not scold, nor express much disappointment. All I said was,”This is not an acceptable result but Mummy will work together with you to overcome this subject.” In fact, I think I was more upset than her deep down. All because I should have seen this coming and spend more time with her on academic revisions. While many parents start as early as P1 in early involvement in their kids’ academics, I think I might be too laid back. I blamed myself, again, for not spending more time with her and felt responsible for her results.

But I am not going to send her to tuition, not yet.

I made a pact with her that Mummy and she are in this together. So, starting December, she had been a good student at home in doing her P3 Math assessment book right from the start in the day time. During the night or early morning, I mark her assessment and for some nights and during the weekends, we sit down together to go through what she did wrong and ensures she gets it right. I am quite confident as long as she cooperates her revision with me, she will get it right this time round. It is important that she gets her fundamentals right in P3 before going to P4 which builds on earlier foundation and is certainly going to get harder. For this, my girl gets full marks in her attitude in learning and that is more important to me.

The middle child often gets neglected.

Especially, when he does not need revision time with me nor demand more time than the baby does. Poor YH. He gets easily neglected when he is easy-going, does not have much disciplinary problems, nor academic problems for the time being. Then, when he starts to act out, I put blame on myself again. Neglect in children always yield the same thing: disciplinary problems or weird behaviour. So far, YH does not pose much problems to me but I had better pay more attention to him before anything small goes unnoticed and bigger problems manifest later on.

I made a secret promise to myself that I must have a one on one time with each of the elder 2 kids during this school holidays. In fact, today I arranged for a Universal Studio treat for the kiddos sometime this week and hastily applied a one day leave from work.

Afterall, to a mother, nothing is more important than time spent with her children. Anytime for you, kids. I must remind myself that. Including sitting down with my baby to finish his puffs even though I would be running extremely late for work.

Are you a working mum? Do you feel guilty to leave for work while your baby clings onto your legs? Do you compensate in any ways to soothe any guilt due to lesser time spent with the kids? I hope you can share with me to tell me that I am not alone…

28 thoughts on “A working mum’s woes

  1. You are so not alone!! It was so hard for me when Mr. T was little, I cried my eyes out the first week I had to drop him off at day care! I didn’t have the option of staying at home (Mr. T’s father decided he didn’t want to be involved) so I would get up and take T to daycare, go to work, and then rush home and pick him up. Some days we would stop by the park and play, some days I’d get supper started and in the oven and then take him outside to hit the baseball. We always ate supper together and weekend became sacred!

    Life happens, and we just do the best we can. Weekends are still pretty sacred, I want to spend time with Mr. T, so I learned how to adapt. I learned how to cook fast meals, I learned how to clean one room a day so that I didn’t have to spend our weekends with chores and errands – and I know that you will find your balance, too. 🙂 The kids will adjust as well, and I think you are providing a strong role model, showing them how much strength you have is a great example!

    • It is tough for me, but I am sure it was even tougher for you. Thanks for sharing your experience to adjust and make any little time for Mr T. I can imagine we all think of ways to make things work. It’s kids feelings we are talking about here, so that makes it harder emotionally. I am so inspired by what you did for Mr T and how you ran your household solo. I should look into small pockets of time to steal a special time with each of my little ones too 🙂

      • I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy, because you know it’s not, but I know you can do it! And some kids take longer to adjust than others, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out – the BAM! In comes a new surprise! 🙂

  2. My baby also cries when I leave him for work. The moment he sees me walking to the door and closing the gates on him, he will cry so pitifully. Now, i’ll let him follow me to the lift lobby and wave him goodbye. After I left, he will play awhile at the lift lobby, so I guess that makes him feel better.

    My philosophy is not to work overtime or to bring work home. As a working mom, time with the kids is already so limited. So I’m not going to let my work take away more family time after working hours.

    That said, not many employers are supportive of this. For me, work has to take some sacrifices, like lower chance of promotions, less challenging work scope.

    Work is the means to more money but family time is the means to better family togetherness and happiness.

    • Thanks Jolin! You are right that working mums like us probably would gladly give promotions a miss. Nothing can compensate the time spent with our children. My philosophy is to not think about work at all the moment I step into the house. Family and kids are my main priorities in life. Nothing can be more important than them.

  3. I totally feel you. I was a FTWM for 5 years and I always go to work with a heavy heart. Unlike all of you, I go to work so early that all my children are still asleep. I don’t even have a chance to bid them goodbye and hear them cry. But I do have a cut off time at work and I try my best to reach home by 6 everyday just to eat and feed them dinner and to bath them and to spend time with them. But sometimes, when I had to work late, I come home only to find them all asleep. Which means I’m don’t get to see them at all for the day.. Which always makes me feel so bad.. So you are not alone. As a FTWM I feel guilty sometimes too. And it didn’t help that in one of those really bad guilty day that I posted that “I wished I have taken the easy way out to just stay at home” and you know what, one SAHM took my comment out of context, wrote a whole post calling me “rude and ignorant” because I dont know “how bad” the SAHM have it. Imagine how bad I felt or how worse I felt after that. Totally argh! Which by the way, I did stay at home for while during my working time and now a full time stay at home mum, I still think that it’s tougher on the FTWM and staying at home is really a privilege. But I always believe that as a FTWM, your children will learn different things and they will learn to be more independent . Anyway, it’s the quality time you spend with your kids.. So don’t worry, you are doing just fine..

    • Thanks Qian Wen for your comforting words! Your tough job hours sounds like a huge challenge for any mum. The reader who took your view to heart is too narrow in her thinking. All FTWM, SAHM, whatever Ms have their own challenges. The thing is we’ll always think it would be better if we are at another mum’s shoes. Now that you have experienced both and still think that FTWM has it harder, I would agree with you. I had 5 months as a SAHM too after my 3rd baby was born. I totally enjoy it. If I have a chance, I’ll choose to be a stay home mum anytime 🙂

      • I think as long as you are mum it’s a tough job. Whether a SAHM or a FTWM, we all still need to fulfil the duties of a full time mum. Just that as a SAHM, you have better control of time. But it’s tougher for a FTWM because time is not always within your control. Moreover, as a FTWM, we still need to fulfil our 100% duty as a mum within a shorter time.. That’s why I feel that it’s tougher to be a FTWM. But as long as we give our 100% to our kids, it’s doesn’t matter if we are SAHM or FTWM. Like my hubby always says, “it’s the effort of the mum that makes a difference to the children. A SAHM could be busy or engaged with other things (like watching drama all day) rather than spending time with the children. Then in this case, staying at home may not make that much of a difference to the children. But if a working mum comes home every day and spend quality time with the children, she makes more of a difference.” And I totally agree with him.

  4. This is one of the reason why I’m still with my current job. It doesn’t really pay well, but I get to leave on time on most days. I guess at the end of the day we really got to choose which we cherish more. Work or home. Especially when our kids are young. Can work take a back seat until a later date when the kids are older? I don’t know, I’m also trying to find an answer.

    • We all try to choose the best for our family. Previously my cushion job allows me to reach home early but then no satisfaction, so much so that I start to think about my self worth in life outside family. It’s a matter of striking a balance now that I have chosen a job that takes more time away from the family. I am learning to manage it. Wish me luck!

  5. You are in the same boat with me! I just start working this October too, after 3 years becoming a sahm. Every day I am torned up between work and kids. Work is tough, but I can’t bear the thinking of staying late at work. I pity my first child, who gets much less quality time with me. My second is still a baby so she gets most time (as in nursing, change diaper already takes time). As for now, we try to have one-to-one quality time with kids, even as short as 10 minutes every single day, and do more of his favorite activities on weekends. I also try to prepare some simple activity for him to do during the day (now that it’s still school holiday, he gets bored easily), not much on toy, but more to hands on activities like learning numbers and alphabet thru play.

    There were times I want to quit work, but again, when I decide to go back to work, there’s a valid reason what I want to achieve by going back to work( for me, it’s serving my scholarship bond, I believe you have your own reason too). So, I try to stick with work right now, trying hard to balance between everything and also pray to God to ease it for me. This journey maybe though, but I hope things will be smoother as time goes. May God ease your journey too as a working mum.

    • Thank you for sharing! It is tough to go back to work after 3 long years! I am sure you will find a balance soon. I think it’s often the guilt that we can’t manage so well. Take comfort that despite our busy work, we take the effort to plan things for the little ones, like in your case, alphabet activities. Sometimes I feel I am a superwoman to plan for the kids while I am also busy working haha 🙂

  6. Can totally relate to this post (in fact, I’m in the midst of writing my own…). It’s not easy to be a FTWM but I think it’s all about a balance, and that’s really a challenge! Jiayou!

  7. This is affecting me at the moment because one of the reasons the last job didn’t work out was the part time aspect. Yet I don’t feel that I can go full time. So I don’t know what to do come January. And the thing is, well two things:

    a) It would be so much easier for me to work part time in certain other places, and there’s nothing different about the nature of the work in those places, only the culture of part time vs full time work and

    b) My husband is full time and there’s no biological reason this shouldn’t affect both of us equally – it’s just expectations from society.

    Sigh. I don’t know but good luck!

  8. Yea.. i felt torn between work and family when i was a ftwm too.. in fact i only managed to do so for 2months.. and thereafter converted to pt.. and even part time arrangement is tough.. but my struggle is more on the work side.. cuz im ever compromising my work till i feel im no longer in my workplace.. and therefore im gonna quit for good and find a new job in a new arena.. tho im pretty sure this work life balance thingy will continue to haunt me whichever industry i am in lol..

    • Enjoy your SAHM days! At least you have a choice when work doesn’t go well with you. I envy you. If only I can stay home too. I am not really a career woman. But given I have little choice and have to work, so I am choosing a job I like, then now comes the hard truth and hard sacrifice…

  9. I can’t imagine what you are going through. Being a working mother has to be the hardest thing sometimes. I will be thinking of you and hope it gets better, or at least you feel better about it. 🙂

  10. I went through the same thing when I was a FTWM. My eldest (2 years old at that time) would wail at the gate everyday when I had to leave for work. I felt guilty and heavy hearted everyday. I had to work 10 hours on most days too. I tried to compensate the time lost by bringing him to the playground everyday once I reached home, before dinner. That was our special daily time. Somehow mothers are usually plagued with guilt. Even SAHMs! This could also be just a transition period for you and your kids. Give them and yourself some time to adjust to your new job and hopefully things will get better. Hugs!

    • Thanks Ing! You have been through both! I am sure SAHM has guilt too. I am still trying to learn to be guilt free. Will take some time. I hope it’s a transition period too but I see no end in my busy and stressful work period. I am learning to switch on and off work when I come home. The fatigue affects my patience with the kids and it’s not fair for them. I think I will learn from you to bring the kids to the playground and have special time with all of them. Good to learn an idea here 🙂

  11. Totally feel you. My 23 month old baby would frantically waved his arms at me, hoping I would whisk him off with me to work and when I won’t, he let out such a big wail that I could hear behind the closed door. When we are finally home from work, he would literally hug my arm in bid I would play with him, forgoing my dinner and shower. And yes, because of the little amount of time spent with him, I tend to give in to him more.

    I have another elder boy, 3 and he didn’t behave in such way. Probably he is in a preschool, he has friends, he has lots of activities in school so he doesn’t feel short-changed by a working mum. However, I would think he feel I’m being biased, didi gets away with most things.

    I can only hope that when didi finally gets to go school too, things would improve. The 1-to-1 outing was something I have been planning since I was preggie with #2 but never could materialise. Because I soon realised that when one child is sick, the other would follow suit and the leaves are easily used up.

  12. Totally feel for you! This is how I felt when I was in FTW after mine was born. It was heart wrenching. But, there was soon a routine, and he gradually accepted it. Just be there for the kids w/o all the gadgets and give them your undivided attention. Jia you!

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