When you are a mum trying to work from home during the pandemic, there are few things more valuable than board games.
Just ask Ms Jessica Zhuo, a Families for Life Volunteer, who had to take care of her two young sons while working from home when Singapore went into lockdown last year.
Her work-life balance lifesaver? Scrabble. The word game allowed her to attend online office meetings while connecting with her eldest son in between turns — all at the same time.
“I could focus on my work while connecting with him and helping him hone his oral and vocabulary skills,” said the secretary at a multinational company.
But scoring points at home during a pandemic were not as simple as drawing seven square tiles from a bag.
For one thing, she had to ease her boys — aged seven and 12 years — into new routines. These included ensuring that they kept up with their online learning classes, helping them adapt to a new life indoors and finding new ways to keep them creatively engaged.
All this, while staying on top of work.
Yet instead of putting up a brave front, she decided to be honest and explain to her children that like everyone else, she was trying to find her way amid uncertain times. The key to getting out of this, she often stressed to them, was by sticking together.
“I never told them that mummy knew everything. In fact, I always told them that I didn’t,” she said. “I think the pandemic further emphasises that things can’t go your way all the time but we will eventually figure it out, so let’s find the best way around it.”
Embracing the unknown has also helped another Families for Life Volunteers, Ms Celine Teo, connect better with her children during the pandemic.
The mother of four children aged between 20 months to 16 years old has had to go out of her comfort zone to build stronger bonds with her children.
For example, despite being camera shy, she decided to join her daughter to create engaging TikTok videos with the rest of the family.
Empowering her children has also allowed the property agent to strengthen her relationships with them.
When her usually sporty second son was kept indoors due to lockdown restrictions, she encouraged him to lead the entire family in lively workouts.
She also helped encourage her eldest son to pursue his passion for drawing by handing out his works as thank you cards to customers.
“I don’t want to just be a parent or a mom, I also want to be a friend that goes into their world and know what they are like.”
Ultimately, Ms Teo believes that while the pandemic has turned the world on its head, it has also underscored the importance of family.
“Despite the uncertainty that we had to go through last year, I am very glad that my family is united,” she said. “That is my blessing as a mother.”