How Working Parents Maintain Work-Life Balance

Take a look at Oxford dictionary’s definition of balance for a minute. This noun is defined as “an even distribution of weight…” and this means there is some form of separation between two masses. How then, does this separation affect a working parent’s goal of achieving work-life balance?

Is there a switch to transition between ‘working adult mode’ and ‘parent mode’?

Are our workplaces equipped and able to accommodate this need for balance?

Is flexibility a norm, hindrance or the future of today’s workplace?

Families come in different forms, and of all the joys that adulthood entails; parenthood is in a class of its own. Who better to shed some light on the topic of work-life balance for working parents than parents themselves. I spoke to a few and here’s what they had to share:

*Chloe Wong (CW) – Director of Catering in a hotel (full time)

One child, 8 years old

Jobstore (JS): Does work-life balance exist?

CW: It very much depends on the individual. It exists if you work on it. For the majority of working mothers, they make it a point to try and balance it out for the sake of their children. It’s a choice. They may not make it to the top in terms of their career as fast as those who are single, especially when their children is still young. These are the years where their career will be slight stagnant.

JS: Is it possible to separate being a parent and a working adult?

CW: Yes, you just need to set your priorities. On most days you will be able to separate your office time with your family time. However, when there is a need, you will need to be able to put your children first. For example, on sick days, weekends, sports day, report card day etc.

JS: How does juggling both roles affect your day to day?

CW: You will end up not having much time for yourself. It’s hectic. A typical day will start at 6:00 am when you are a mother:

  • Wake your child up from bed
  • Have breakfast
  • Shower
  • Get your child ready for school
  • Send them to school
  • Off to work

You work until at least 6:30 pm – 7:00 pm, then immediately rush to pick them up from daycare. Reach home, have dinner, homework, and revision with your child. By the time you are done, it’s time to make your child sleep. You are only left with 1 hour for yourself before you have to go to bed in order to get up early the next day again.

JS: Additional thoughts?

CW: Ideally, women should be a stay-at-home mum till the child is at least 12 years old. So they do not need to juggle between being a career woman and a mother. However, in reality, this is seldom the case when there is a need for both parents to be working in order to give their children a better life and better education. Fathers generally do not need to face this issue especially with the Asian mindset where nurturing the child is the mother’s job. It is not easy being a working mother but with perseverance, it will pay off at the end.

“Freedom in our culture has evolved to mean freedom from obligations, but what on earth does that freedom even mean if we don’t have something to give it up for?” award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

Dr Audrey Ng (AN) – Dentist (full time)

Two children, 6 and 11 years old

JS: Does work-life balance exist?

AN: Yes.

JS: Is it possible to separate being a parent and a working adult?

AN: Yes.

JS: How does juggling both roles affect your day to day?

AN: Juggling both roles can be tiresome. If the kids are unwell or sick, I will be worried about them the whole day and it can affect my work schedule. It helps if there are extended family members around with the kids. Grandparents, for example. I’m fortunate that I don’t need to bring work home after working hours. So, there is some sort of ‘balance’.

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” — Betsy Jacobson

Goh YK (GYK) – Agronomist / Research Officer (full time)

One child, 7+ years old

JS: Does work-life balance exist?

GYK: If the question is, ‘Is there such a thing as work-parenting balance?’, the answer is a definite for me. Parenting is a full-time job. For most parents, work is to support the family. Given a choice, many would rather limit the time at work to spend more time with the children. Hence, it is a constant struggle to do what’s more important in life and difficult to find a balance.

JS: Is it possible to separate being a parent and a working adult?

GYK: In terms of professional conduct, yes. One can perform perfectly at work without anyone knowing he or she is a parent. In terms of personal conduct, thought, time management, no. Few parents can actually spend a full day at work without putting in thought or be doing something to prepare for what is to take place after work. The daily parenting activities can actually occupy much of one’s thoughts, time and energy.

JS: How does juggling both roles affect your day to day?

GYK: It can be stressful and it requires lots of sacrifices. It means less personal time and less time to do things one desires. Work demands full attention during work hours, and often after. The balance is for the family. Prioritising becomes crucial. So, how does it affect me? Find ways to cope with stress, praying hard, be efficient and prioritise.

JS: Additional thoughts on the topic?

GYK: Being a single parent is so much more difficult. There is no one to discuss crucial decisions for the children, no one to share the burdens and there’s dealing with a lot of guilt about not being able to provide the best family environment that other families have.

“When you’re gone would you rather have your gravestone say, ‘He never missed a meeting?” Or one that said, ‘He was a great father.’” — Steve Blank, author of The Startup Owner’s Manual


Jini Seelan (J) – Chartered Accountant (own practice)

Three children, 3, 6 and 8 years old

JS: Does work-life balance exist?

J: Yes, it does exist. I am at the office until 2:00 pm every day and the balance at home.

JS: How does juggling both roles affect your day to day?

J: Once the kids are home, most of my time is spent with them to go through school work and on reading among other things. I don’t have a maid, so I spend quite some time on household chores as well. I will get the children to help me with the chores so that we can bond at the same time.

Our weekday schedule is very structured with routines in place. The kids are in bed by 8.00 pm every day. After that, I have a little time to myself daily, to read and catch up.

*Fergie (F) – Publishing Manager (full time)

One child, 2 + years old

JS: Does work-life balance exist?

F: Yes, it’s not easy but it needs to be done. Especially for single parents.

JS: Is it possible to separate being a parent and a working adult?

F: No. Based on my experience, you never actually are able to separate it. It’s just that when you’re at home – family comes first and when you’re at work – your job comes first. However, for many of us, taking into account how bad the economy is – our jobs are becoming the main priority so we can survive.

JS: How does juggling both roles affect your day to day?

F: It’s fun, taxing, stressful, keeps me on my toes. Sometimes, at the end of a particularly long day – you aren’t really sure if you have really lived. *laughs* To explain, all that I do is for my daughter but at the same time I can’t give her as much attention as I want to because of my new job. A job I need to maintain for our future.

JS: Additional thoughts on the topic?

F: Being a parent basically means being everything to your child. You’re a mother, father, child, playmate, friend, nurse, doctor, cook, cleaner, a provider of emotional support and more. Your mind never really leaves parent mode and you never really sleep without worrying and thinking of your child/family.

*Names have been changed

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