When I first broke news to my closest bunch of girlfriends that I was contemplating being a FTWM earlier this year, I didn’t expect their reaction be “Oh…good luck, you need it”, “Why are you doing this to yourself?”, “Are you crazy?”, “How are you going to manage with one active kid…and oh never mind”.
They sounded like the least supportive group of girlfriends one could ever ask for. But I knew they had my interests at heart.
For someone who was finally taking her first break to try for a baby after working for 8 consecutive years – a break that lasted 2 years: 9 months pregnancy + 13 months as a contented SAHM; and then being offered a godsend part-time work-from-home arrangement by my ex-company just when I started to crave work again …I could understand why my girlfriends reacted the way they did.
After all I finally got what I wanted. Our very own family after months of disappointments, roadblocks & years of trying. A newly minted mum status despite the initial & severe sleep deprivation. A so-good-it’s-true part time job offer which I dreamt of. Why in the world would I be crazy enough to want an extra workload (with a 1st trimester belly) when I was already griping about not having enough hours in a day?
To be honest, I’ve no idea too. Maybe it was the thought of staying home so much with a SAHM for the last 2 years that made me motivated not to become that sort of mum – traditional, tactless, self-centered, subconsciously imposing and unwilling to keep an open mind as an outcome being used to things revolving around her. Maybe.
Or perhaps the possibility of achieving much more by breaking out of the preconceived mindset of few mums can actually have it all – excel in a job they enjoy and excel in the hearts of their family. My mum manage to achieve that singlehandedly despite facing lots of trials and perhaps that was also a motivating factor for me.
Turns out God had the best plan for me. One destined chance meeting with a friend led to a conversation the next. Before I knew it, I was offered the challenge of putting my current skills to use at a new game by means of another part-time gig. The lure of learning and working in an industry that I was completely unfamiliar with sounded exciting. I had been talking to the Bo about widening my skills set and horizons for a while now, so this was really timely. Plus it’ll be a great way to keep busy and not overthink about the 2nd pregnancy – to date I’ve actually ended up missing 3 ob/gyn appointments back to back that my gynae laughed at how relaxed I was this time round. Which is a good thing he says – my weight gain, baby’s weight, baby’s growth, blood pressure numbers are all looking good.
Without much deliberation, I readily agreed signed myself to be a FTWM. Basically running 2 PT jobs in a day in extremely different industries.
So how has it all pan out for this recently converted FTWM who no longer has the luxury of procrastination since the days of being a SAHM or a PTWM from home?
The last 2 months have been every bit crazy, filled with nights of reading literature I never used to be interested in and weekends of on-job training, attending events/seminars.
There are days when I come home drained of energy, soaked with exhaustion and the last thing I want to do is take on any mummy duties but it doesn’t happen. Liam just wants my company.
During those moments, I can’t help but admit if perhaps my girlfriends were right. What was I thinking, trying to juggle the whole FTWM and motherhood gig with 2 very different part time jobs and an online business?! Did I really think it would be that easy…?
But I tell myself to stay positive. Liam is clearly doing well and enjoying play school. The Bo is obviously happy with some financial pressure off him, with whatever little I can contribute. I am evidently contented with the fulfillment of doing work that I enjoy with very decent work hours to boot.
I’ve since learn to be more lighthearted with disciplining & not get hung up with every little thing. I try to fill my after work hours dishing lots of cuddles, love, kisses, laughter and joy during our bonding activities instead of flaring up too easily like I used to.
I stop labelling myself as a “bad mum” because I know I am doing the best I can for my kid. And I’ve realized that mistakes are there to be made, so I’ve also quit sweating over every little booboo that happens.
As I continue to fine-tune the everyday demands of juggling work and family, thought I’d share some motivation, things I do and manifestos that has been very useful shaping a more positive mindset & helping me cope. Hope it strikes a chord with you too!
1. I state my priorities upfront with my bosses and colleagues
I appreciate that my bosses, being mums themselves, and colleagues have been utterly understanding towards my priorities to pick up Liam before 6pm from play school everyday and that some afternoons I have to take him to other fun classes which we’ve committed to. They know that I can be contactable should they ever need to reach me and that I will give my best at the workplace. If there’s a need to stay back for certain brainstorming sessions or meetings, I will gladly be a part of it after making the necessary child caring arrangements too.
2. I try to make every moment count
Naturally the time I spend with Liam these days are shorter than before. But I make an effort to make every moment count from the time I pick Liam up from school. I’ll start by asking how his day was, and then taking him on his favourite bus or train ride depending on our plans for the day. I try to keep our plans fluid and fun-led with the stuff that he wants to do. For instance if we walk past a playground, I’d let him have a go at it for a bit. And if he feels like taking the lift, we’ll step into it. And he feels like ice cream once in a while…
It’s tempting to quip over being able to spend only 2 hours with our child vs others being able to spare 6 hours. But seek solace that our kids don’t care how many extra hours their friends have with their parents. They care only about the time they get to spend with us. Even doing mundane activities such as having dinner together, brushing teeth together, reading bedtime stories…while they may not seem like much, to our little ones they mean a lot.Laugh with them, hug them, smile with them, tickle them. I do that with Liam every night and it’s become a pretty big thing for him.
3. I try to change things up, add a little jazz here, there & everywhere
I often think of Liam whenever I walk past a cookie shop or a fries stall that just smells so good! And I know how excited it’ll make him . So I get a pack as an incentive for when we’re watching a video, blowing bubbles, reading a book, running in the park or just lazing around. Having spend most of his weekdays being on a similar routine (which I’m thankful for!), I try to make the time we spend together a little more fun by introducing different things into the mix.
4. I accept all the help I can get or is being offered. Sometimes I ask for help too.
I used to want to do almost everything on my own. Call it stubborn. Or first time mum syndrome. On hindsight it does sound quite silly now. I used to worry about being overbearing about my parenting ways, or that Liam’s caregivers won’t do things the way I prefer but really…they’re there to be an extra pair of eyes and hands. They’re not there to parent – that’s when your recharged and rested self comes back into the picture so don’t worry about losing your stand with your child by not accepting help.
Take all the help you can get if it’s being offered…because this help is only temporary. For me, it’s interesting to observe how Liam responds to the various caregiver differently too. The Bo & I try to make an effort to go for a movie or dinner night out once every 2 weeks if help allows. And we really appreciate the downtime we get.
5. The routine is my BFF. Go with what works for you!
I know to some mums feel having a routine for the kid sounds like robotic parenting and can be limiting. But I’m a fan of doing what works for me and sticking with it. I prefer to have some certainty if I can help it since other areas in my life can be rather uncertain.
I started the routine in my first month as a newly minted mum, as an outcome of firing my stubborn confinement nanny who insisted on her traditions and ways without giving me a chance & almost going into post-natal depression.
And no, I’m not too straight lace with the routine either as long as I can anticipate & satisfy Liam’s wants and needs. It’s been working out great – I love how I don’t have to beat myself up on days that seem to go awfully wrong knowing the whys. I also love the principle of everyday being a brand new start which would also miraculously work its way back to the natural rhythm of things if I just let it.
Obviously the routine has been through changes since day 1, but the gist of it remains the same – wake/sleep/nap times, meal times, bath time etc.
With a routine, I can be assured that any of my trusted caregivers will know what to do if I ever need to be away at any one point in time or run some urgent errands. Plus Liam seeking comfort in the familiarity of the routine also helps caring for him a lot easier too.
6. I create weekly meal planners and frozen “emergency food” during the weekends
Although we’ve hired a helper since Liam was born, most of the time the mil conveniently takes her to run her own errands too, leaving my helper with little time to prepare meals. With meal planners, it shaves off needing to do any last minute grocery shopping and fretting if all nutritional needs in the meal are met.
I’ve been creating meal planners ever since I started part time work almost a year ago. I usually give my helper the meal planner for the week on a Saturday night, have her look through to see if she has any questions (they are usually recipes that she’s familiar with or those that I’ve taught her during the weekends) or if there’s groceries that I need to top up. We also ensure that there is always frozen stock stored up, along with frozen sauces to go with pastas just for “emergency cases” – especially handy when your kids are younger.
7. Indulge in some fun after work hours
We play hard at work, it’s only deserving to take some time off to do what you want to do. Go for things that gives you fulfillment outside of being mum. For me I indulge in pilates & zumba classes whenever I can, have dinners with girlfriends once a month and online shop/blog if time permits.
While it’s easy to feel guilty not spending every waking moment with our kids whom will always be a big part of our lives, don’t feel bad about having some fun on your own. Have that tub of ice cream, take up a cooking class or watch that movie you’ve been meaning to. It’s healthy to let loose once in a while and soak in happy vibes. After all as they say a happy mummy leads to happy family.
I’m grateful to have been able to experience both roles of being SAHM and a FTWM in the last 27 months of motherhood.
Being a working mum, it really helps that I work with a bunch of colleagues whose pro-family and really fun to be with. I appreciate that time spent away from Liam also helps me refocus and recharge. With chungkin #2’s impending arrival, I’m sure things will change again and there’ll be lots to think about during my maternity leave but for now I would like to seize the day and enjoy what it has to offer.
This post is part of a blog train hosted by Christy from Kids ‘R’ Simple on “A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM”. Read about how 21 FTWMs from Singapore Mom Bloggers 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!
Next up is Jennifer from Dino Mama.
Jennifer blogs at www.dinomama.com, together with her loving husband and 8 year old boy they are the DinoFamily! Jennifer shares snippets of her family life, parenting experience, a little bit of art & crafts, recommendations of great books and some good recipes for a satisfying home cooked meal. Come join her in the adventure of motherhood as a FTWM!