Work-life balance is so scarce in Singapore that many young parents have given up on it altogether. Instead, they just concentrate on trying to get enough sleep and make it through to retirement in one piece. I have friends who work such long hours, only returning home after 9pm each day, that they leave their kids with grandparents, only coming to collect them on the weekends.
This hectic lifestyle does the government’s drive to get Singaporeans to procreate no favours. Parents who work so hard they have no time to spend with their kids are essentially shouldering the financial burden of raising a child without enjoying any of the warm fuzzies that make the act of child rearing feel meaningful.
If you’ve decided to have a child but are terrified the kid will start calling the maid “mum” or become a tortured artist when he grows up in response to childhood emotional neglect, here are some tips for spending time with the kids even when you work long, punishing hours.
Take the kids with you on your own social engagements
Being a parent is tough. You have to balance the time commitment of raising a child while still maintaining your own social life. If you don’t have a maid or in-laws who can watch the kid from time to time and your spouse also works long hours, your chances of spending time with your friends become almost nil.
Neglect your friends for too many years and you might find yourself feeling alienated when your children get old enough to have lives of their own. If you work long hours, you have even less time to devote to any form of bonding, except with your boss.
In my observation, the young parents who’ve been most successful in juggling their social, family and work obligations are skilful at combining time with their kids and their friends. These are the parents who play mahjong with their friends while their respective kids entertain each other. They’re able to go for Sunday brunch more often by taking the kids with them. Setting up playdates with the kids of friends gives parents the excuse to socialise with other young families like themselves.
One added advantage of these sorts of arrangements is that your kids tend to be better socialised and more confident around people compared with children who’re sequestered at home with only maids and tuition teachers for company.
Plan your work schedule to allow you to go home early a few days a week
The biggest hurdle parents who work long hours face when it comes to spending time with Junior is getting home when the kids are already in bed, or should be. Unless you’re planning on raising a little brood of vampires, it’s probably not a good idea to read the kids their bedtime story at 12 midnight.
Unfortunately, if your job is so demanding that you’re working upwards of 11 hours a day (and there’s evidence to suggest that many Singaporeans do work that much), if that’s what it takes to get the work done, that’s that. But depending on what you do for work, you might be able to organise your schedule to enable you to come home early at least once or twice a week.
If you’re able to, you might choose to work longer hours three times a week so that on the remaining two working days you can come home early. If you work approximately 11 hours a day, cramming your work into 3 days on which you’re working 2 to 3 hours more might enable you to leave the office on time the remaining two days of the week. Of course, this is more viable in some jobs than others, and if you’re in the service or security lines you might be out of luck.
Of course, if your boss is the kind of person who routinely likes to dump urgent, must-be-completed-by-tomorrow work on your desk at 6pm, this won’t work. Still, you might opt to head home on the dot to spend some time with the kids and then continue to work after they’ve gone to bed.
Take all the flexi-work schemes your company offers
It’s by now an accepted fact that many Singaporean employees are too frightened to take advantage of their companies’ flexi-work schemes. They’re terrified they’ll be given a bad appraisal or lose out to colleagues who are better at wayanging.
Still, a decent number of workplaces claim they do have flexi-work schemes in place.
For instance, civil servants in many ministries are allowed to work from home or stagger their hours so long as they don’t have to be present at meetings.
If you’re good at what to do and can work flexi-hours or from home without losing productivity, you need to ask yourself what’s keeping you from doing so if your company allows it. If you’re just too kiasee, ask yourself if the extra time with your child is worth it.
And seriously, if your boss holds it against you for taking benefits the company purports to offer freely, then it might be time to scout around for a new employer anyway.
How do you spend time with the kids when you work a lot? Tell us in the comments!