It’s a tough reality that little bundles of joy can bring not just love but also significant stress for the parents—especially when they are young. We spoke to Adriana Lim Escaño and her husband Bryan Tan for some tips on how busy couples with dual careers can successfully juggle work and family.
Recognising that parenthood does change spousal relationships is an important first step, say the busy pair who are both in their early 40s. Besides having their hands full with three young children and work, they are also active in volunteer work.
Many Singapore parents today face the stress of juggling multiple roles—they need to earn a living, meet employers’ expectations, and tend to the needs of children and extended families, said Adriana. She is the founder of fashion and lifestyle accessories retailer and distributor, Abry, and co-founder of Mums for Life.
Having young children in the picture often means spouses have less time for each other as both work and children take up a significant portion of their time. As a result, maintaining a balance between parenting duties and work can become stressful and challenging, noted Bryan, who is CEO at Centre for Fathering and Dads for Life Singapore, non-profit organisations that aim to get dads more involved in the lives of their children.
Spousal roles have also changed with modern lifestyles. Where dads used to be the sole breadwinner and mums stayed home to raise children and take care of the home, many modern families see both parents working outside the home.
One tip Bryan shared is to recognise that each person has a limited amount of time and energy. Then assess priorities and decide what is important and the tradeoffs to be made.
“Everything fights for our time, so it’s vital to prioritise. Having shared understanding, good communication skills, trust, integrity and a common purpose goes a long way,” said Bryan.
Adriana added that time-pressed parents should intentionally take pauses and make time for self-care. This could help them cope with work-life pressures and achieve balance in today’s stressful work environment. “Be kind to yourself and know that you don’t have to excel in every single thing you do.”
How to Prioritise
Adriana and Bryan have found it helpful to discuss prioritising their different engagements and dividing family commitments—all done with a dose of give and take. For example, there are seasons when Bryan’s work is busy, then Adriana will take on fewer projects to spend more time at home with the children.
“When we are both tied up with activities that require attention and cannot be shelved, we are thankful for parents and good friends we can call on for help. Making it work takes open communication, being able to jointly decide what we want, and a broader community of support,” said Adriana.
It’s About Teamwork
When it comes to tackling the mountain of tasks involved with having a family, the couple suggests having a flexible mindset about roles for dads and mums within marriage. Both Bryan and Adriana share the responsibility for home and parenting tasks, such as doing the dishes, laundry, cooking, and feeding the children, instead of all the domestic tasks being shouldered by a single parent.
“Depending on how much each spouse has on their plate and seasons, there is a need for shared parenting rather than traditional spousal roles,” said Adriana.
It begins with understanding what needs to be done, and delegating where possible, suggested Bryan. “We try to avoid gender stereotyping, and instead acknowledge our different yet complementary roles. It is overall a shared ownership for the home and family. We try to have a conversation and come to a mutual understanding about what’s happening and also to involve the kids.”
Balancing Family Schedules
When it comes to finding balance in family schedules, a tip that Adriana and Bryan shared was to make decisions together as a family. With many competing demands on their time, the family had sat down and talked about doing activities as a family in the same location. For example, a child may have ballet lessons on a Saturday afternoon, and the rest of the family would try to find sporting, creative, or learning activities that they were keen on in the same building or area.
Finally, the pair urges parents to view parenting and marriage as a partnership. “We try to speak about joint priorities, what we want to achieve together as a family and not about whose work or who is more important,” said Adriana.