Work and family – are we placing the right priorities?

A few mornings ago, my toddler hugged my leg tightly when I was leaving for work. We were looking at 2 beautiful yellow birds chirping on the neighbour’s flowers. The birds flew away and came back a few times. We watched happily and the toddler could speak in clear sentences to me about the birds were chirping away. I put him down so that he could wear his little slippers to walk about. While he was wearing his slippers, I told him I had to leave for work. So, I began to walk away. He took some time to put on his slippers and with the half dragging of the slippers and half hopping over, he caught up with me who had deliberately walked slowly for him to catch up. He hugged on tightly and chanted “Mama.. Mama..” Argh…. to hell with work. I can’t be bothered if I was late anymore. But I knew I had to leave and briefly stopped and kissed him again. The helper took him away to watch the birds once more. At this moment, I envied the helper.

The SAHM (Stay At Home Mum) thought floats again on my mind. I seriously envied the helper being able to see my children more than I do. She gets to play with them more than I do. I am bringing back income to pay her to be with my children more than I do. What is this???

It is 6 months into my new job and also 6 months of having a helper at home. But, why do I still feel that I am not spending enough time with my family?

Somehow the extra time that I free myself of doing house chores and time saved in travelling to an office near my house, get eaten up by the extra hours that I spend on work.

The new job is starting to take a toll on me. Many times, I feel so stressed in the challenging deadlines to meet, I start to think of the extreme. I can feel my health being compromised. On days of extreme busyness, I forget to breathe for some seconds. Just last Friday, I was so stressed from the minute I started my computer that till late afternoon, I began to feel some chest pains. Over the weekends, because I needed to send that one very important email out upon receipt of an important information, the nagging and unease kept biting into me for the entire day until I opened my laptop and sent out that all important mail. If this goes on, I think I will collapse very soon.

Then, I resume the thought of staying home for the kids.

I work because of the kids and family. I want to stay home because of the kids and family. I cannot have best of both worlds. I can only choose one. After all, family is the most important thing in life and that’s what keeps me going.

As working mums, we look forward to getting home on time to our family and leave work behind in the office. The kids are proud to have a mum who looks professional out the door with her heels and smart suit for work and still comes home on time to play with them. There are many times my girl was upset that I had to work late that day and the disappointment in her voice could have killed me instantly. But the moment I was home, the 3 kids screamed out in excitement and one would have thought I had been travelling for months. Such a moment is true happiness.

“Mummy, I hope you can stay home like 婶婶 (Aunt). Why do you have to work?” my girl said this one day.

“I wish to stay home too. If Mummy does not work, it will be hard on Papa to bring home all the income. We have 5 mouths to feed here.”

As if resigned to her fate, the 10 yo kept quiet and the silence broke my heart.

It seems a wish too hard to fulfill. I know I will be missing out on my children’s growing up years. I know in the foreseeable future, I will not be a SAHM any moment. And once these golden years of childhood are gone, I may not be so welcomed at home anymore. This may be my greatest regret in life.

I love my job and despite such demanding nature and challenges, I am still loving it. I need to re-adjust my mindset at work and not seek for perfection. I am just an ordinary person and could only do so much in limited time. I cannot sell my life away at work because I still need to be in one healthy piece to go back to my family at the end of the day. I need to pull myself out of the office and leave all work behind. I am a mum and wife and daughter and sister. My well-being is important to the happiness of my close ones.

It’s hard to balance work and family but it can be done. To start off, I got to sleep by 1030pm daily and alternate waking up at 550am with my hubby to prepare my gal for school so that I have enough sleep and energy for the next day.

Then, I have to be persistent to exercise at least twice a week not to slim down but to keep healthy for the sake of my loved ones.

Like what I had shared before, I needed to walk slower, talk slower and breathe deeper.

In work, I need to take things easy, breathe regularly, take deep breaths. I have to know my limits and raise the white flag to my superior and admit I can no longer take on so much on my plate. I cannot seek for perfection and think I can handle beyond what a normal person can do. I need to learn to embrace imperfections.

At home, I strive not to bring back my work and I will just focus on my family. We will aim to go to places of nature, like parks, reservoirs, greenery, picnic, and breathe fresh air once every week. Somehow, nature has the power to refresh a person.

For those who are struggling like me over work and family, how do you manage? I would love to know. And to those who are working very hard and finding the work life detrimental to health and well-being, I hope you will take things at your own pace and think of your family. Just like the cab drivers take home the message of “Drive safely. Your loved ones are waiting for you.“, the office workers should also take home a similar message of

“Work within your means. Go home. Your loved ones are waiting for you.”


21 thoughts on “Work and family – are we placing the right priorities?

  1. I was the same when my children were young. It killed me to leave them! That is why I started my home child care business. My kids still had to share me, but I was there for them and with them. I didn’t make as much money, but I loved it! I hope you can find some peace with whatever decision you make. There are good points and bad points for either decision, staying home or working.

    • You were so wise to do that back then! I hope I can find something that works for me too. Ever since this post is up, I have received many good advice and suggestions from other mums. Maybe I should really consider quitting to start some business. Thanks Granny for your kind advice and support! I need it 🙂

  2. I am in awe of you and your ability to keep it all together during the time. You are doing what is best for your family and even though it is difficult your little ones will know it. 🙂

  3. I was at that point 5 years ago, when I was spending more hours at work than at home. As a teacher, my work didn’t end once I leave the school. Most days we had books to mark and lessons to plan on weekday nights and weekends too. It came to a point where I was wondering why am I teaching others’ kids but had no time for my own? Made the decision to stay home and didn’t look back. Kids are little only once. Now that they’re bigger, I’m happy to start working again, knowing that I’ve been there for them when they needed me. Hope you can come to a decision that brings peace to your heart. Pls also take care of your health. Hugs.

    • Thanks Ing. I need to take care of my health. Previously when I had my 9-5 job, it was easier even though I also hope I could stay home full time. Now with such 8-8 job, I am at a dilemma over which way to go. Will seriously think about it now. Hopefully I will find my right decision.

  4. Being a single mother, I didn’t have a choice – I got up early and got ready, then I got Mr. T up and ready and dropped him off at daycare and then went to work. Then I’d leave work and pick him up from daycare – and there were days that I was still in my skirt, hose and heels and had dinner going on the stove while I was running back and forth because I was also playing baseball with my baby, because I wanted to maximize the time I got to spend with him and so I sacrificed. And it was worth it, it helped me be there for him when I was home.
    The nice thing is, after years and years of this, I was offered a job that allowed me to work at home, and that was such a blessing! But, I wouldn’t have traded that time – I liked working, I like the interaction that Mr. T got with other adults and kids. I like how that experience made us who we are. I think that you’ll be able to find balance and peace, it just takes times – and some days are easier than others!

    • It must be so tough on you! You are really my idol you know?! And you brought Mr T up to be such a real gentleman, you are a tough woman and a great mum! I am seeking some assurance from your words that I will, too, find a job that allows me to work from home and have the best of both worlds! I have got to find that!

  5. That’s the very reason why I stayed home because I would be torn between both worlds of work and home. There are mums who thrive on this as they really enjoy and need the time out at work while enjoying the kids, there are those who can’t and there are those who prefer working to looking after the kids too. At the end of the day, we make the most of our motherhood within our special family dynamics? I feel for you. As you’ve mentioned, perhaps it’s got to do with working within a limit so that you can have the energy to spend with your kids? Perhaps with more time and monitoring, you can adjust better? May you find that balance to be guilt free and savour time with them, not on the time lost. BIG HUGS too!

    • You are right about savouring time with them and not on the time lost. I have got to start something to make things right. I just don’t know how and what. Perhaps I will find that balance soon. Thanks for your encouragement. I think the SMB community is really awesome. I find comfort just ranting and listening to all of you mums’ advices 🙂

  6. I really feel u. My mum had to work when I was young and I hated it. However on the bright side, I believed I grew up independent as compared to peers my age who had SATMs. Dun feel sad or guilty, you are doing a great job mama! And ur kids will appreciate u for it xx

    • Thank you Elaine for your encouragement! I think there are always 2 outcomes to any situation. A good and a not so good. I hope my kids will grow up to be independent too. But provided I stop doing many things for them. That’s also a problem with me. I learn loads after becoming a mum and everyday I learn new things and face challenges.

  7. I stay home with the kids and there are days I forget to breathe too! But ultimately I’m glad to be a stay home mum.. My parents nag me everyday that I would not have money to retire if I continue being a stay home mum, I tell them I’ll go work at McDonald’s when I’m older.. I guess I’m just kind of a short term plan carpe diem kind of person.. oh well.. I’m not helping am I? Just babbling while my kid is sleeping.. Hope you find your balance in life and *Hugz*.

    • Thanks Bumblebee mum! Stay at home mum surely has her own set of woes. The stress is different but not to be slighted or ignored. You may worry about financial but me too haha. It’s the same. Even if you are working, you may spend more too. Just enjoy the privilege of staying home when your kids need you most 🙂

  8. That is the hard one, but you really make me worry because of your health issues. Is there no opportunity to do sort of a compromise? To cut the working hours, earn less but enough to make it AND have more time for the family? It kind of works for me (even though the intensity in my working dys is sometimes crazy). But then there are days where you wish there would be more time anyway… but you truly have long days. I hope you find a solution! And please take care of yourself too!

    • Thanks Vilmar, don’t worry about me. I am fine. Just need to rant here and seek some advice and also straighten out some thoughts to change my mindset too. It’s hard to compromise is Singapore many of us feel. First, the bosses and culture here are not so understanding towards shorter hours and more family time. Maybe the day they make it a law, it may help. We are waiting :p Then, living expenses are high such that it will give much stress to the entire family to survive on sole income. And exploring part work part home, one has to be lucky to find one that suits oneself and works for the family. I am still looking. But also means I may be away from the corporate world and makes it hard to return to workforce. It’s too much dilemma unfortunately.

      • I guess those hard choices are pretty universal (living on one salary here would be hard too. And we’ll see if I can make it back to the corporate world later… or if I even want to 🙂 ), just the scale of the options vary. But it does seem you have very long days in Singapore! I hope you find a solution that works.

  9. Hi, first time to your blog and I love what you have shared in this article cos there is so much rappot!!

    I am a mom who started working full time only about 6 months ago (she is 3yo now). Its really hard and still a constant struggle in my mind if i could/ should be a SAHM so that i could have my undivided attention to see through my daughter’s childhood. But like how you explained to your daughter, it will be very taxing on daddy to bring home all the beacon and still manage to save for rainy days/ retirement. But my daughter always asks me why does she need to go to school (she is in full day child care) and I couldn’t bear to tell her that because mummy needs to work! I feel that i couldn’t give my work my 100% (i feel guilty cos i have a very good boss and working environment) cos i want to leave work on time and i am not available for OT on weekends; and at the same time i couldn’t give my 100% to my family cos my mind and time and energy have been partly consumed by my work. The neither here nor there kind of feeling irks me to no where!

    Sorry i have no solution to offer but you do have my prayers and morale support. Just have know that you are not alone and the kids will love you no matter what decision you eventually make!

    Life is a journey and there is no right and wrong. 🙂

    • Oh, kittybeloved, knowing you took time to read and comment here is already an encouragement to me! Thank you so much! I totally know how you feel about guilt at work and at home. It is almost a “no choice” decision to work and I hated to tell my kids that Mummy has to work because of the reasons that I find hard to tell. These are hard truths. I think the only thing we can do is to try to leave on time from work and go back home without any single thought about work. We have to sleep more too so that we have a better physical and mental state when we face the children.

  10. Hi, I chanced upon your blog when researching on our upcoming trip to Taiwan in June. I loved reading your Mummy Diaries and resonated with your sharing regarding work and family.

    I was like you five years ago when I often find myself torn between work and family. It never seem possible to strike a balance between work and family. Many times I find myself having to choose between meeting work deadlines or attending to my child who was ill ; many moments when I envied my helper for having all the time with my children, or wish I could take those extra days off to revise exam with my child. Finally I made the difficult decision to be a SAHM and never look back since.

    SAHM faced a different set of challenges. There are definitely days when I forget to breathe too ; or find myself being a broken recorder nagging over routine tasks like eating and bathing ; or rushing home after a short gathering with friends just to make sure I would be around when the kids come home from school. Having paid a high price to be home, I also find myself setting higher expectations for myself. SInce I don’t contribute to bringing the bacon home, I want to make sure I contribute too in other intrinsic ways for the kids and family. At the end of the day, it boils down to how involved you want to be in your kid’s life. It takes a village to raise a child. How profound and true this statement is.

    We have to decide what works best for our family. Some people strive better being a working mum; while others don’t see any problem balancing work and family. I feel for you. Do take care of your health. Hugz.

  11. Hi Jean, sorry to reply you late. Yes, being a FTWM is really not easy and I am sure SAHM is not an easy job too. Thanks for sharing with me on your challenges and your life as a SAHM is. I am glad you said that you had never look back since. This sentence actually makes me more and more yearning to stay home too. I know that SAHM is too far a dream for me judging from financial stress and all. Hence, I can only try to take leave when necessary and occasionally take a few days leave to enjoy being a temporary SAHM 🙂

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