Friday, April 14, 2017

A Singaporean Mum: Juggling Work-Life Balance

Being a mum is a life changing experience, and there are many times in my motherhood journey that I felt overwhelmed with the different responsibilities and decisions that are being thrown at me to make for the family. So, in conjuncture with SmartParents, I am going to share with you readers on the few parenthood policies in Singapore that has helped me as a working mother tremendously and hopefully something that you can explore as well to cope with work-life balance.

Maternity/Paternity Leave

This is probably the most well known parenthood policy that all parents would know and am thankful for! For both my pregnancies, besides looking forward to seeing my baby, this is also one of the reason why I couldn't wait to pop! Hahaha, I am sure I am not the only one feeling this way! Having that 16 weeks of maternity leave, being away from work so that I can get to ease myself into motherhood was just something that every mother would smile about! You can either take them continuously or stagger them for the last 8 weeks of leave flexibly over a period of 12 months from the birth of your child. For me personally, I took a continuous 16 weeks as I preferred to go back to work fully without having to take another few weeks off and interrupt my work responsibilities when I have seemed to already settled back in. There are definitely pros and cons to this, but for that 16 weeks it was just pure bliss to be able to spend it every day with my baby!

With effect from 1st Jan 2017, all daddies are also eligible for 2 weeks of paternity leave! Hurray! Like most daddies out there, my husband took his 1st week of paternity leave right from the beginning to be around at home for whatever help that was needed. He was basically my extra hands and feet as he helped to buy groceries for my confinement meals, run endless errands to pick up items for the baby that we have missed out on our list.

 He even brought the baby out on his own for his jaundice checkups while I stayed home to catch up on some sleep. His physical presence during that first week had helped made the transition for both the baby and I a lot easier.  My husband then utilized his remaining week of paternity leave when my confinement lady had left, and that was extremely crucial for me as well because it was the start of the real deal of parenting! Having him around for that week to help me settle into a routine of caring for the baby alone at home definitely made it less stressful for me!

Subsidies For Centre-Based Infant Care And Child Care

When I was pregnant with my second child Coen, one of the main concern for us was the arrangement for our firstborn Zoe after I have delivered. She was then being cared by my mother-in-law and also by myself given my flexible working arrangement. But given that we were going to have a new baby in the house, we knew that we had to send her to school so that things don't get overwhelming for us at home in the day time. We found a childcare centre that we were comfortable with and started her there just approximately 4 months before I went into delivery. It gave her and us ample time to settle into the new routine and most importantly for her not to feel that we had "abandoned" her when the new baby came along.

Though our pockets felt the pinch when we enrolled her in full-day childcare, we were extremely glad to know that, as a working mother, I am entitled to a basic subsidy of $300 a month, which is a lot savings for us! If you are looking to put your baby in an infant care, working mothers are eligible for up to $600 per month and for both options there is an additional subsidy if your monthly household income is below $7,500.

Foreign Maid Levy Relief (FMLR) & Grandparent Caregiver Relief (GCR)

Besides the tremendous help of my in-laws which you can read more here, we are also blessed with a really capable foreign domestic helper that has been a great help to all of us at home. To be honest, I was initially hesitant to have a live in helper due to many common reason like "I do not want to sacrifice my privacy", "can I trust her with my kids?". But while my husband and I sorted out our plans on me returning to work after my maternity leave, I realized that all the concerns I have can be objectively addressed and considering the fact that our lives will be much easier if we do have extra help.

On top of that, as both my husband and I hold a full-time job, we really wanted to be able to come home each day being able to spend that precious 1-2 hours with the kids before their bedtime, and not worry about scrambling in the kitchen cooking dinner or being overloaded with the household chores. Not forgetting it does eliminate all the potential tension of marriage squabbles about dirty laundry and unwashed dishes! (#truestory)

Having a domestic helper also helped ensure that we do not tire out my in-laws every day who were caring for our kids. My mother-in-law works on different shifts at her workplace, and would intentionally arranged her schedule to help us out, while my father-in-law was also ferrying the kids to and fro their place. One thing we constantly remind ourselves is that we do not want to take them for granted and would want them to be enjoy their time with their grandchildren instead of feeling tired and drained all the time.

Do you know? If you are a working mother, you can claim twice the amount of foreign maid levy paid for one foreign maid last year against  your earned income? And if your parent/ parent-in-law who do not have any form of employment, lives in Singapore and cares for your child, you can also claim the Grandparent Caregiver Relief in your tax filing process!

I treasure work life balance a lot, and I know it's something that is not easy to achieve. Besides all of the above, I am also very thankful that my bosses at work are extremely understanding and flexible and that I am also working in a culture that do understand family priorities and commitments. This has helped me to transit back to work easily and drive me to work even harder and committed to my responsibilities. Although most of the time I get to go home on time, I do have to bring my work home to finish on some days, and that is something I do not mind as long as I get to spend the evenings with my kids and put them to bed.

In the recent past month, due to a special project at work, I had to stay really late in the office consecutively and that led to me not seeing my kids more than half an hour each day. Besides missing the kids terribly, it has also made me reflect how fortunate I am to have strong family support like my husband, my in-laws and also my domestic helper that can help care for my kids as I work in peace. I am no superwoman, and one thing I learned about motherhood is to never be afraid to admit that you need help.

If you are struggling with work-life balance as a working mother, you are definitely not alone! It took me a long while to finally feel a little on top of things when I return back to work. Consider opening up to the help options that are available for you, or simply try to work out feasible routines that may help you have better control with things at home. At the end of the day being emotionally balanced and happy is one of the best gift you can give to your kids and your husband! :)

And here's a video we did about ensuring a good work-life balance! Enjoy!

For more work-life balance tips, check click here to read more from Smart Parents!


  1. Love that super sweet kiss from Zoe to Coen!!! Too cute! Indeed, a strong childcare support system is really important. it's a piece of mind for us as parents which does wonders! <3

    1. Same here! Plus she cries everyday when we pick her up so it sure gives us a piece of mind! LOL!

  2. Such a good read! So going to share this article so that the rest of my mummy friends r aware too!!!