Women in Singapore are lucky. With higher education levels, a demand in the labour market and supportive government policies, we are able to “have it all”. That is, have kids and a career at the same time. But sometimes, the reality of having it all doesn’t feel so great. We look across the fence at stay-at-home mums and wonder if we really have taken on more than we should. Are we getting “not much of anything” instead of “having it all”?
You Don’t have to be Incredible to be Great
First of all, we need to let go of the feeling that if we aren’t able to be CEO of the company and make it to all our kids soccer matches, drama performances and fix gourmet meals every night for the family that we aren’t doing great.
If you are able to be present in the moment when you are with your kids, if you are attuned to the needs of your children and you are able to maintain a schedule which works for the family even if it means that you are not together 24 hours a day, then you are probably doing a great job.
10 Tips to Try
If you are struggling to figure out the right balance between your kids, your work, your spouse and yourself, then here are some tips which could help you get to where you need to be.
1. Don’t Compare Yourself
To your children and your family, you already are incomparable and irreplaceable. If anyone were to ask your kids if they would prefer a different mother, they would probably say “definitely not!”
So stop thinking about how other mothers seem to be better at what they do. Don’t compare yourself to the mother next door who doesn’t work and hand sews all her children’s clothes. You don’t know her story, and she may or may not be doing better than you are. The important thing is that you are the best mother that your kids could have and that’s already more than anyone else can be.
2. Create Structure through Routines
Create a routine. Sounds boring, but it works! Plan your meals a week in advance, do marketing on set days of the week. Serve meals at specific times. Get your kids into a bedtime routine. Delegate chores which everyone knows they need to do. Pack school bags the night before and lay out clothes at the same time. Have a set time to leave for work and come home. Check emails from home at a certain time after work and not all the time. Create a routine before bedtime to read to your kids and squeeze in hug and a cuddle.
The less uncertainty there is in your daily routine, the more likely you and your family will be able to manage and excel at balancing work and home life.
3. Be Fully Present at Work and at Home
Multi-tasking really only works if you are doing 2 or more things which individually don’t require a lot of attention. But if you have significant tasks to complete or when you are with your kids, it is far better to focus on what you have to do and to be fully present in the moment. If you are able to do this, you will find that not only will you be able to complete your tasks more quickly, but you will also enjoy the time you have with your kids more fully.
4. Accept that You Will Have Limitations
Even Superman had his limitations – he just couldn’t get around that kryptonite! So too will you. Accept that you won’t be able to do everything you need to do perfectly and that there will be some areas of your life which you may need to limit for the next few years. If you can do this, you will save yourself a great deal of angst and unhappiness and free yourself up to accomplish the things which are most important to you today.
5. Make a List and Prioritise
One way to deal with limitations is to prioritise what you need to do. Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish and decide which your priorities are. Consider not doing some of the things which you don’t like to do. If you dislike ironing, you can buy no-iron clothes for home use and send work shirts and outfits out for laundering and ironing. Sometimes giving yourself the luxury to opt out of doing the more tedious chores can make everything else seem more bearable.
6. Control Tasks with a Timer
Set specific times to do your tasks within. Finish cleaning in 2 hours, or reading and responding to your email over the weekend within 30 minutes. In the beginning, you may not be able to stick to your times. If that happens, keep practicing. You will eventually be able to complete what you need to do within the time frames you set yourself.
7. Worry Less
Make a list of all the things that worry you. Divide it into 2 columns – 1 for things you cannot control and another for those you can. For those you can’t control, decide not to worry about them and to stop investing emotional energy trying to resolve them. For those you can, create an action plan and follow through with it.
Take care of your health. Find 10 to 30 minutes a day to stretch or go for a walk. Exercise not only helps you to manage your stress levels, but it also gives you more energy to do the things you need to do.
9. Make Time for Your Spouse
Being a mother is great, but being a wife is just as important. Don’t forget to factor in time with your spouse. Talk to your husband, go on dates and be there for each other. Remember that you chose to be a wife before you became a mother, and continue to honour that commitment and invest in your love for each other.
10. Nurture Friendships
Being able to reach out and talk to a good friend can help you put things into perspective. Continue to make time for your friendships. Meet up during the weekday over lunch or catch up on social media and email.